Forest Carbon Monitoring

The Forest Carbon Monitoring project is responding to the foreseen dynamic solutions and forest carbon markets. The EU Green Deal is expected to result in reforms in the policy environment, which will promote market-based mechanisms to enhance carbon sinks and land use in forest sector. Additionally, global brand owners and corporate sector are paying increasing attention to carbon neutrality and are looking at various ways to reduce and compensate their carbon footprint. The market for related services, applications and solutions will increase significantly in the next years.

The response to these demands requires a robust, reliable, and transparent approach for the monitoring of forest carbon. Carbon stock is typically estimated through inventories of forest structural variables. The inventory results are input to models to compute forest carbon stocks. For monitoring, the continuous updating of the carbon stock estimates could be improved if amended with information on climatic and edaphic variables using data-model fusion techniques. A major amount of forest carbon is stored in forest soils, although the changes in this carbon pool are typically less dynamic.

Considering the available extent of the project, we focus on carbon in forest biomass (trees) including carbon in belowground biomass. The carbon, expressed as equivalent tCO2/ha, will be computed by predicting the forest structural variables using versatile remotely sensed data with ground reference data. The main data source is optical satellite imagery but particularly for the extensive area mapping, also SAR data are utilized. Space-borne and airborne laser scanner data are used as additional information sources. The structural variable values are transformed to equivalent CO2 using modeling. The structural variables, inputs to the carbon models, are side products of the processing chain and directly usable for operational forest management.

We consider development of a common approach for the accuracy assessment a crucial development goal in carbon monitoring. The accuracy of forest resources estimation with remote sensing, in particular in case of biomass-related variables, has been expressed with variable approaches which makes it very difficult to evaluate the true reliability of the results and compare different mappings of forest biomass. We aim at developing and introducing a statistically sound approach for the accuracy assessment in Forest Carbon Monitoring project while developing and demonstrating novel analysis methods for remote sensing data. The monitoring system that will be built on a cloud processing platform managed by the consortium lead, will form a foundation for operational forest carbon services. These services will follow the IPCC Good Practice Guidance (GPG) and guidelines (GL) that are further defined in the guidelines of the Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI) to enable reliable Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) processes for forest carbon. Overall, they contribute to fulfilling the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, we aim at close cooperation with the recent activity launched by World Bank, on forest carbon monitoring using Earth observation.

The users of the services range from governmental entities to NGO’s and the private sector, which are considered central actors in fighting climate warming. AFRY, one of the largest advisory companies globally is a sub-contractor in our consortium. They have expressed their readiness to support further development of the Carbon Monitoring Platform and built their own services using it, subject to successful acceptance of our proposal.


Forest Carbon Monitoring is carried out under a programme of, and funded by, the European Space Agency. The information published here can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency.


Project management
Hans Verkerk and Jo Van Brusselen,
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
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