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TCO Project, Shaun Quegan

Space data, in situ data and model-data
interaction themes are being developed
to meet TCO objectives


Observations needed to understand terrestrial carbon stocks and fluxes:

· land cover and land use history
· net primary productivity
· fire and biomass
· atmospheric fluxes
· soil carbon


The Terrestrial Carbon Observation (TCO) initiative was started in 1999 by the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership (IGOS-P) in response to policy and scientific needs for carbon cycle data (see Box 1). The TCO objective is to improve the understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of carbon sources and sinks in the terrestrial biosphere to allow countries to make informed decisions about limiting the introduction of CO2 into the atmosphere.


Dr Josef Cihlar, who led the TCO project from its creation in 1999, stepped down in November 2002. The new Chair, Professor Shaun Quegan (see Box 2), is currently assembling the new TCO panel, whose team leaders will develop the three main TCO themes of space data, in situ data and model-data interaction. A panel meeting was held in late 2003 to revise the implementation plan, make decisions on short-term and long-term goals, and put TCO projects into operation.


Since the end of 2002, TCO has been active in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region, building links with scientists involved in carbon-related research. The aim is to develop collaborative links within the region and identify and develop regional data sets relevant to TCO. A meeting was held in Prague at the end of 2002, to bring together CEE scientists involved with forest inventories, FLUXNET station data, site ecological data, and site soil organic matter data. The workshop provided an opportunity to jointly assess data availability and current needs.

Global distribution of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory

The data and information received during the year have been placed in a data warehouse, access to which is freely available through the GTOS Secretariat. For some data sets there are a number of restrictions, but a comprehensive metadata list is being developed so that interested individuals can contact the data holders directly. The issue of data incompatibility will be addressed during a dedicated workshop in Prague in the spring of 2004.


TCO is keen to develop its programme through collaboration with institutes and international initiatives involved in carbon studies. For example, TCO collaborated with the Global Carbon Project (GCP) in organizing a meeting on Terrestrial Carbon Observations and Model-Data Fusion (Sheffield, United Kingdom, 3-6 June 2003). Through working sessions, participating scientists developed recommendations addressing the critical actions most needed to improve estimates of the distribution of carbon sources and sinks at regional and global levels. This requires convergence of in situ and satellite observations; experimental and modelling strategies; improvements in data acquisition and sharing; and product generation, distribution and use. The findings of the workshop will be submitted to IGOS-P and a summary article is being prepared for submission to a journal (Journal of Global Change Biology). For additional information on the workshop see:


Director of the Centre for Terrestrial Carbon Dynamics (CTCD), whose purpose is to give a better understanding and greater quantitative estimation of the role of the terrestrial ecosystem in the Earth's carbon cycle.

Professor Quegan's particular expertise lies in the physics, systems and data analysis aspects of radar remote sensing, but his current interests lie in the exploitation of remote sensing technologies in environmental science and the carbon cycle. He is a member of the NASDA Kyoto and Carbon Panel, the ESA TerraSAR Advisory Group, and, until recently, the British National Space Centre Earth Observation Programme Board.

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