- Emissions from deforestation in tropical forests rose by 5% in 2022, even as temperate forests strengthened their role as carbon sinks, according to data from a carbon mapping tool developed by nonprofit CTrees.
- According to the data, emissions from deforestation saw a dip in Indonesia and the Congo Basin in 2022; in Brazil, however, emissions continued to rise through 2022, and only started dropping this year.
- The JMRV platform uses satellite imagery and machine learning to map forests and non-forest lands around the world to monitor forest cover, carbon stocks and emissions.
- In addition to broader global data, the tool can also help local jurisdictions monitor and verify their carbon stocks to keep track of their emissions-reduction progress under the Paris climate agreement.
Greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forest loss increased by 5% in 2022 from the year before, while temperate forests bolstered their carbon-absorbing capacity, according to latest data from a carbon mapping tool developed by California-based nonprofit CTrees.
Researchers at the organization used the Jurisdictional Monitoring Reporting and Verification (JMRV) platform to map forests and non-forest lands to monitor carbon stocks, emissions and removals across the planet. Despite deforestation increasing in the tropics globally, the data showed that certain hotspots witnessed a reduction in deforestation in 2022.
Indonesia, for example, saw a drop in emissions from deforestation in 2022. The findings aligned with data gathered by multiple other sources that have shown a drop in forest cover loss in the country. Data from the JMRV platform also showed a reduction in emissions from deforestation in the Congo Basin. In Brazil, however, emissions only started to drop in 2023, likely due to policies implemented by the new government that took office at the start of this year.
On net, the platform estimated tropical deforestation emitted 4.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2022. It was a different story for temperate forests, however.
“We also noticed that boreal forests and temperate forests are starting to gain more carbon, probably because these are extremely managed forests, grow fast, and climate actually has been helping them a little bit because the growing season has increased,” Sassan Saatchi, CEO and co-founder of CTrees, told Mongabay in a video interview.
According to the data, carbon sinks in the U.S. increased by more than 30% in 2022 compared to the previous year, probably due to the reduction in wildfires that particular year. By contrast, Canada saw a decline in its carbon sinks due to drought and wildfires that ravaged parts of the country in 2022.
Saatchi said that, in addition to the broader global data, the JMRV platform could also be used by smaller jurisdictions in individual countries to monitor and verify their carbon stocks. The tool, he said, could complement the data gathering and assessment processes for scientists and policymakers during and after the ongoing U.N. climate summit, or COP28, in Dubai.
“One of the key things about countries or jurisdictions coming to the COP, especially this year, is to report how well they have done after signing the Paris Agreement in terms of reducing emissions,” Saatchi said. “They can use the tool to compare the numbers they’re coming up with using their individual inventories.”
The JMRV platform was launched in 2022, and upgraded this year with higher-resolution satellite data. Machine learning was also incorporated to automate the processing and analysis of data. The tool was developed to help countries around the world carry out what’s known as the global stocktake, a term used to refer to the mechanism to monitor and review progress to achieve emissions reduction goals under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
“What we needed then was information that actually tells how much carbon is in the forest,” Saatchi said. “That traditionally comes from inventory data on the ground, but we realized that wasn’t sufficient.”
The JMRV platform now incorporates data from NASA’s ICESat-2 mission that provides additional information on the volume of biomass in forests, wood density, and dimension of the vegetation. The team at CTrees also uses historical data to observe how tree cover and carbon stored in the vegetation has changed over the years.
“Within year-to-year changes, you see emission comes from both land-use change as well as environmental factors like climate change, droughts or fire, but you cannot separate those. So the next step was to come up with attributions,” Saatchi said.
The team then used data from NASA’s Landsat program as well as lidar data to differentiate between areas that were deforested and those that were degraded. “We were able to separate land-use activities from climate or environmental activities, because countries have to only respond to anthropogenic changes that happen when it comes to reducing emissions,” Saatchi said.
The tool now enables users to click on any jurisdiction and extract details about the area of the forest there, the carbon stock that it holds, emissions from land use, as well details on carbon removal. The platform also measures carbon levels in trees in non-forest areas and wetlands — areas where considerable biomass often exists. For instance, the JMRV tool revealed that one-third of all trees in Africa are outside forests and, when combined with savanna woodlands and dry forests, they hold more than 60 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.
Outside of the negotiations at the U.N. climate conferences, Saatchi said he hoped the tool would help provide reliable data to buyers and suppliers in the carbon market. Its open-source nature, he said, could also potentially help in capacity building in countries that don’t have access to resources or technology to gather accurate and precise data for forest inventories.
“My hope is that this can help them jump-start their activities and get it going,” he said.
Banner image: A toucan in a tropical rainforest. Image by Matheus Bertelli via Pexels (Public domain).
Abhishyant Kidangoor is a staff writer at Mongabay. Find him on 𝕏 @AbhishyantPK.