Mapping & Monitoring

Above-Ground Woody Biomass Map of Africa 2000

Africa has one of largest remaining blocks of tropical humid forest in the world, second only to the Amazon basin. The threat of deforestation or degradation of these forests means a high potential for increased emissions. The carbon – and by extension, the biomass stored in these forests – is poorly studied. A better understanding of the quantity and distribution of carbon in these forests will help to more accurately estimate emissions of carbon dioxide.

In 2008, the Woods Hole Research Center produced a first map of the distribution of above-ground biomass covering the tropical region of Africa by utilizing images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) satellite (1-km resolution) along with data from recent forest inventories covering the period from 2000 to 2003.

By completing an online registration form, the national level data is available to download.

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One ton of dry biomass equals one-half ton of carbon.

In 2009, WHRC undertook the production of a new carbon map covering all tropical forest countries based on the most recent 2007 MODIS images, new forest inventory data currently in collection, and from LIDAR (light Detection and Ranging) data from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) satellite. The production of this pantropical map is part of a three-year multi-disciplinary project with the principal objectives being to generate biomass maps for the entire pan-tropical region and to increase the technical capacity of institutions engaged in natural resource management in tropical forest regions.

WHRC is soliciting and encouraging collaborations with research institutions and forest experts interested in being part of this project. For more information, please see the reference list below or .


Baccini, A., N. Laporte, S.J. Goetz, M. Sun, and H. Dong. 2008. A first map of tropical Africa’s above-ground biomass derived from satellite imagery. Environmental Research Letters (3) 045011 doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/3/4/045011

Goetz, S.J., A. Baccini, N.T. Laporte, T. Johns, W. Walker, J. Kellndorfer, R.A. Houghton, and M. Sun. 2009. Mapping and monitoring carbon stocks with satellite observations: a comparison of methods. Carbon Balance and Management, 4:2.

Laporte, N., J. Stabach, R. Grosch, T. Lin, and S. Goetz. 2007. Expansion of Industrial Logging in Central Africa. Science, 316.

Houghton R.A., K.T. Lawrence, J.L. Hackler, and S. Brown. 2001. The spatial distribution of forest biomass in the Brazilian Amazon: A comparison of estimates. Global Change Biology, 7.

WHRC is indebted to the NASA Land Cover Land Use Change & Applied Sciences Programs, who provided support to initiate this project. We also acknowledge the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, the Linden Trust for Conservation, Joseph H. Gleberman, and Roger & Victoria Sant. Lastly, WHRC thanks Spot Image Corporation and the Planet Action Initiative for providing high resolution satellite imagery.