BIOMASS is one of six candidate Earth Explorer missions that has just completed assessment study and will be presented to the science community at a User Consultation Meeting in January 2009. Up to three of the missions will subsequently be selected for the next stage of development (feasibility study), leading to the eventual implementation of ESA’s seventh Earth Explorer mission.
Covering about 15% of the Earth’s land surface, boreal forest plays an important role in the global cycling of energy, carbon and water. The boreal region forms a circumpolar band throughout the northern hemisphere that extends through Russia, northern Europe, Canada and Alaska. The great expanse and large quantity of carbon contained in vegetation and soil make the boreal biome the world's largest terrestrial carbon reservoir.
Since forest biomass is half carbon, the BIOMASS mission, if selected, is expected to greatly improve our knowledge of how much carbon is being stored, where it is being stored and better quantify carbon fluxes between land and the atmosphere – important for understanding more about the global carbon cycle and climate change.
To achieve this goal, the mission will exploit the longest radar wavelength available for satellites observing the Earth from space – P-band. This wavelength is uniquely sensitive to mapping biomass from space. Malcolm Davidson, Head of ESA’s Campaign Unit explains, "The BioSAR 2008 campaign represents the first-ever ESA airborne Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) campaign over northern boreal forest. Because of the importance of boreal forests for the BIOMASS mission, and the global carbon cycle in general, highly accurate and robust methods for transforming the P-band radar signals into forest biomass maps are required. By collecting airborne SAR measurements at P-Band over boreal forest and comparing these to extensive measurements made on the ground we can ensure that the satellite mission will accurately map forest biomass across this unique biome."
The campaign is being conducted in the air by DLR’s (German Aerospace Center) Microwaves and Radar Institute using the E-SAR (Experimental Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument. Ground measurements are also taken of essential forest characteristics such as biomass, forest height and ground conditions by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå (SLU) supported by the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and Sweden’s Chalmers University. In addition, forest height measurements of the entire test site were made this summer using a sophisticated helicopter-based laser scanning system.
Measuring forest properties on the ground can be hard work especially when you also have to deal with mosquitoes, the harsh northern climate and rugged terrain. However, more than 300 plots within the forest were measured during the summer by SLU. This ground-based data is currently being compiled and formatted for analysis.
"We are very pleased that the Krycklan test site was selected for the campaign," says Johan Fransson from SLU. "It provides us with an excellent opportunity to conduct a large-scale inventory of forest properties in our research site and complements parallel efforts being made in our department to develop new methods for assessing and mapping forest resources using remote sensing. We expect to learn a lot from this campaign."
One interesting and unique feature of boreal forests is that, due to the harsh climate, they grow very slowly compared to temperate and tropical forests. As Lars Ulander from FOI and Chalmers University points out, "When entering some of the forest stands in the test site with larger trees, it is impressive to think how old these trees are. Some forest stands are more than 100 years old – so that biomass in such cases is the result of 100 years of growth."
Beyond the immediate needs of the BIOMASS mission, the interest in the campaigns is expected to be enormous, as a complete remote sensing dataset and simultaneously acquired ground data are rare. Once the activity has been completed, the dataset will be made available to the wider scientific community through ESA.
Mariangela D'Acunto | alfa
NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
New research unlocks forests' potential in climate change mitigation
21.04.2017 | Clemson University
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy