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Focus Area on Aboveground Biomass Product Validation

Laura Duncanson, University of Maryland, USA
John Armston, University of Maryland, USA
Mat Disney, University College London, UK


Aboveground Biomass Definition

Biomass, for the purposes of CEOS LPV, is defined as the above ground standing dry mass of live or dead matter from tree or shrub (woody plant) life forms, expressed as a mass or mass per unit area. We are not considering below ground, woody debris or non-woody biomass, although we acknowledge these are also important components of the carbon cycle. Below ground biomass is not directly detectable from Earth Observing satellites, and non-woody and woody debris biomass are outside the scope of our protocol.

Aboveground Biomass (AGB) is expressed as a mass, typically kg (kilogram), Mg (megagram or metric tonne) or Pg (petagram, or 109 tonnes).
Aboveground Biomass Density (AGBD) is expressed as a mass per unit area, typically Mg ha -1.

Highest Validation Stage Currently Reached for Satellite-derived Biomass Products

Several upcoming EO systems are designed specifically to map aboveground biomass, and calibration/validation networks are currently being refined. We expect formalizing these networks will help us work toward the goal of reaching highter validation stages.

Validation Good Practices

The inital focus of the CEOS LPV Biomass focus area has been on the creation of a good practices protocol for validation of aboveground biomass products, including the development of a network of biomass reference measurement sites. The protocol effort has been underway for a couple of years and includes a contributing author list of 50 (!), from multiple institutions and agencies.

The protocol is expected to be useful for both biomass product producers and users in a range of communities. While the draft is mature, and near final, it will remain open for public comment to maximize the breadth of voices represented who may be impacted by COVID-19 and thus unable to participate in the review period thus far. The document will be finalized in January 2021 and presented to CEOS plenary the following Spring for endorsement.

Biomass Validation Reference Data Sets

biomass site map

From Duncanson, et al., 2019.

A multi-mission biomass calibration / validation group is currently working to compile a list of LPV biomass supersites. These are sites with high-quality longterm monitoring of forest aboveground biomass (tree measurements), and existing, planned or logistically feasible airborne airborne data. We encourage CEOS member agencies to consider prioritizing these biomass supersites for new collections of Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS), airborne lidar (ALS) and longterm support for field plot monitoring.

Some examples of proposed supersites are part of existing networks, including:

  • ForestGeo (Forest Global Earth Observatory)
  • NEON (National Environmental Observation Network) - USA
  • TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network) - Australia
  • ForestPlots

LPV Focus Areas



Supersites and Biomass Validation Workshop, March 2nd - 6th, 2020, Canberra, Australia.

ForestSAT, 2-5 October, 2018, College Park, Maryland, USA. Register here.

Space-based Measurement of Forest Properties for Carbon Cycle Research, 6-10 Nov, 2017, International Space Science Institute, Bern, Switzerland

The terrestrial laser scanning revolution in forest ecology. Feb. 7, 2017, The Royal Society, Buckinghamshire, UK

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