Russian forests store more carbon than previously thought – estimated at 3.9 trillion cubic feet of wood

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This map shows aerial biomass in Russia, using data generated by the Biomass project of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI). Credit: ESA (data source: CCI Biomasse project)

Russia has the largest forest area on the planet, with more than a fifth of the world’s trees. A new study, conducted by Russian scientists using data from ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, has produced new estimates of the biomass contained in Russian forests and confirms that the vast wooded area stores more of carbon than expected.

The study, published last month in Scientific reports on nature, estimates that Russia’s forests contain 111 billion cubic meters (~ 3,900 billion cubic feet) of wood in 2014, which is 39% more than the value declared to the United Nations Food and agriculture (FAO) and the United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The study uses satellite maps of forest biomass, produced by the Biomass project of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative (CCI), combined with Russian ground measurements, such as data from the Forest Inventory. and the ESA-supported Forest Observation System to obtain more accurate figures of carbon stored in forests.

Remote sensing studies have already indicated increases in the productivity of vegetation and tree cover in recent decades. Yet Russia has reported virtually no change in growing stock (+ 1.8%) and biomass (+ 0.6%) since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transition to a new system of forest inventory.

This new estimate is in line with the results of the National Forest Inventory, but expands its capacity in terms of spatial and temporal representation. It is expected to have a major impact on how Russia reports its forest carbon stock.

“The document demonstrates that the current UNFCCC reporting methodology needs to be updated. The method of using satellite data validated by ground measurements is best placed to achieve this, ”says lead author of the study, Dmitry Schepaschenko, researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria (IIASA).

Soil measurement collection team

The team collects samples of dead wood to quantify the carbon pool and associated fluxes. Credit: WRan Kong

“Ground prospecting is crucial for measuring biomass. However, the first national forest inventory cycle lasted 14 years in a country as large as Russia, and should provide a robust estimate at the national level only. The combination of terrestrial and spatial data allowed us to provide results for specific years with higher spatial resolution and to reduce estimation uncertainties. “

He continues: “Our team includes representatives of Russian academic institutes, members of the National Forest Inventory and the Forestry Agency – which ensures the impact on national policy.

The authors use the latest Soviet Union report as a benchmark and found that Russian forests accumulated 1 billion cubic meters per year between 1988 and 2014, offsetting the net losses of forest stocks reported in tropical countries.

The team found that the carbon sequestered over the same period was 47% higher than that reported in Russia’s UNFCCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

But they warn that forest gains will not necessarily continue in the long run: “While we have found that Russian forests have built up a larger stock of carbon than previously thought, the situation is changing afterwards. 2014 due to the increasing severity of forest disturbances. , says Schepaschenko.

Forest fires near the arctic circle

This image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission shows one of several forest fires in the Republic of Sakha, Siberia on July 25, 2021. The image was processed using shortwave infrared band mission to identify active fires. Large clouds of smoke can be seen blowing in a southeast direction, while scars from burns are visible in dark brown. Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Forest disturbances can include forest fires, including those currently taking place in the Sakha-Yakutia region of Siberia, which have burned 1.5 million hectares of land. The fires enveloped the towns and villages of Yakutia in thick smoke, suspending all flights at the airport in the regional capital. In response to the forest fire, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated.

The new national estimate and the uncertainty make an important contribution to improving ESA’s maps of above-ground biomass stored by forests globally through the Biomass Project of the Climate Change Initiative of the United States. ‘ESA. The authors’ ground measurements will also make it possible to validate new satellite observations of biomass which will be provided by the next ESA Biomass mission.

Reference: “The Russian forest sequesters substantially more carbon than previously reported” by Dmitry Schepaschenko, Elena Moltchanova, Stanislav Fedorov, Victor Karminov, Petr Ontikov, Maurizio Santoro, Linda See, Vladimir Kositsyn, Anatoly Shvidenko, Anna Romanovskaya, Vladimir Korotkov, Myroslava Lesiv, Sergey Bartalev, Steffen Fritz, Maria Shchepashchenko and Florian Kraxner, June 17, 2021, Scientific reports.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-92152-9


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