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ECV T12 Biomass
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Biomass plays two major roles in the climate system: a) photosynthesis withdraws CO2 from the atmosphere and stores it as biomass; and b) quantity of biomass consumed by fire affects emissions of CO2 and of other trace gases and aerosols. Estimates of biomass change (due to land use and management practices or to natural processes) provide a direct measurement of carbon sequestration or loss and can help to validate carbon-cycle models.

Historic background

Biomass was identified as a terrestrial essential climatic variable in the original GCOS implementation plan and adequacy reports.

Requirements and the status of the biomass ECV already submitted to the UNFCCC is summarized in this document 42kb, v01, 20 April 2007

ECV biomass standards report

As requested by UNFCCC SBSTA/COP for its 23rd Session in Montreal, November 2005, GTOS is undertaking the assessment of the status of the development of standards for each of the essential climate variables in the terrestrial domain. The following report, documentation and other material have been compiled for biomass. We very much welcome your comments and inputs in improving and completing the analysis for biomass. Please send any material and comments to the GTOS Secretariat.


Download report PDF, 1.09 Mb, 1 November 2009


Listed below are the major references that have been identified in regards to methodology and standards for biomass. Please inform us if you are aware of any other documentation or material which could be considered.

Askne, J., Santoro, M., Smith, G., and Fransson, J.E.S. 2003. Multitemporal repeat-pass SAR interferometry of boreal forests. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 41: 1540-1550. ECV-T12-biomass-ref11

Australian Greenhouse Office. 1999. National Carbon Accounting System, Methods for Estimating Woody Biomass. Technical Report No. 3, Commonwealth of Australia. ECV-T12-biomass-ref05

FAO. 2001. Terrestrial Carbon Observation: The Rio de Janeiro recommendations for terrestrial and atmospheric measurements. Environment and Natural Resources Series, No. 3. Rome. ECV-T12-biomass-ref06

FAO. 2005. Land Cover Classification System: Classification concepts and user manual. Environment and Natural Resources Series, No. 8. Rome.

FAO. 2006. Global forest resources assessment 2005: progress towards sustainable forest management. FAO Forestry Paper 147. FAO, Rome. ECV-T12-biomass-ref20

Fransson, J.E.S., Walter, F., and Ulander, L.M.H. 2000. Estimation of forest parameters using VHF SAR data. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 38: 720-727. ECV-T12-biomass-ref17

GCOS. 2003. The Second Report on Adequacy of Global Observation Systems for Climate in Support of the UNFCCC. Global Climate Observing System, Report GCOS - 82. ECV-T12-biomass-ref04

GCOS. 2006. Systematic observation requirements for satellite- based products for climate. Supplemental details to the satellite-based component of the “Implementation Plan for the Global Observing System for Climate in Support of the UNFCCC”, Report GCOS-107 (WMO/TD No. 1338), September 2006. 90p. ECV-T12-biomass-ref03

Graetz, R.D. 1998. The Terrestrial Carbon Pools of the Australian Continent: an Assessment of their Size, Dynamics, and Tractability. Unpubl. Report to National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Environment Australia, Canberra. 245 p.

Heiskanen, J. 2006. Estimated aboveground tree biomass and leaf area index in a mountain birch forest using ASTER satellite data. International Journal of Remote Sensing 27: 1135-1158. ECV-T12-biomass-ref18

IGOS. 2004. Integrated Global Carbon Observation System. Implementation Plan. Draft 1.0. ECV-T12-biomass-ref02

IGCOS. 2004. Integrated Global Carbon Observation Theme: A Strategy to Realise a Coordinated System of Integrated Global Carbon Cycle Observations.

Israelsson, H., Ulander, L. M. H., Askne, J. I. H., Fransson, J. E. S., Frolind, P. O., Gustavsson, A., and Hellsten, H. 1997. Retrieval of forest stem volume using VHF SAR. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 35: 36-40.

Kurvonen, L., Pulliainen, J., and Hallikainen, M. 1999. Retrieval of biomass in boreal forests from multitemporal ERS-1 and JERS-1 SAR images. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing 37: 198-205. ECV-T12-biomass-ref13

Santoro, M., Askne, J., Smith, G., and Fransson, J.E.S. 2002. Stem volume retrieval in boreal forests with ERS-1/2 interferometry. Remote Sensing of Environment 81: 19-35. ECV-T12-biomass-ref14

Santoro, M., Eriksson, L., Askne, J., and Schmullius, C. 2006. Assessment of stand-wise stem volume retrieval in boreal forest from JERS-1 L-band SAR backscatter. International Journal of Remote Sensing 27: 3425-3454. ECV-T12-biomass-ref15

Terrestrial Ecosystems Monitoring Sites (TEMS)

Wagner, W., Luckman, A., Vietmeier, J., Tansey, K., Baltzter, H., Schmullius, C., Davidson, M., Gaveau, D., Gluck, M., Le Toan, T., Quegan, S., Shvidenko, A., Wiesmann, A., and Yu, J. J. 2003. Large-scale mapping of boreal forest in SIBERIA using ERS tandem coherence and JERS backscatter data. Remote Sensing of Environment 85: 125-144. ECV-T12-biomass-ref16

Zianis, D., Muukkonen, P., Mäkipää, R. & Mencuccini, M. 2005. Biomass
and stem volume equations for tree species in Europe. Silva Fennica
Monographs 4: 1-63.

Somogyi, Z., Cienciala, E., Mäkipää, R., Lehtonen, A., Muukkonen, P. &
Weiss, P. 2007. Indirect methods of large-scale forest biomass
estimation. European Journal of Forest Research 126(2): 197-207.

Wirth, C., Schumacher, J. & Schulze, E.D. 2004. Generic biomass
functions for Norway spruce in Central Europe - a meta-analysis approach
towards prediction and uncertainty estimation. Tree Physiology 24: 121-139.

Lehtonen, A. 2005. Estimating foliage biomass for Scots pine (Pinus
sylvestris L.) and Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) plots. Tree
Physiology 25(7): 803-811.

Lehtonen, A., Mäkipää, R., Heikkinen, J., Sievänen, R. & Liski, J. 2004.
Biomass expansion factors (BEF) for Scots pine, Norway spruce and birch
according to stand age for boreal forests. Forest Ecology and Management
188: 211-224.

Lehtonen, A., Cienciala, E., Tatarinov, F. & Mäkipää, R. 2007.
Uncertainty estimation of biomass expansion factors for Norway spruce in
the Czech Republic. Annals of Forest Science 64(2): 133-140.

Muukkonen, P. & Mäkipää, R. 2006. Biomass equations for European trees:
Addendum. Silva Fennica 40: 763-773.

Marklund, L.G. 1988. Biomassafunktioner för tall, gran och björk i
Sverige. Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet, Rapporter-Skog 45: 1-73.

Löwe, H., Seufert, G. & Raes, F. 2000. Comparison of methods used within
member states for estimating CO2 emissions and sinks according to UNFCCC
and EU monitoring mechanism: forest and other wooded land.
Biotechnology, Agronomy, Society and Environment 4: 315-319.

Relevant Web links

Listed below are relevant links to biomass measurements. New links are welcome.

AmeriFlux Network
Center for Tropical Forest Service
Chinese Ecosystem Research Network
Chinese Forest Ecosystem Research Network
Committee on Earth Observation Satellites
Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network
European Network for long-term Forest Ecosystem and Landscape Research
Forest Resources Assessment (FAO-FRA)
Integrated Worldwide CO2 Flux Measurements
Integrated Global Observing Strategy, Integrated Global Carbon Observation
Global Observation System Information Center, Biosphere, Biomass
Inter. Coop. Prog. on Integrated Monitoring of Air Pollution Effects on Ecosystems
International Long Term Ecological Research
Metla Project 3306
Uncertainty assessment of forest carbon balance
Universität Jena, Institute for Geography
University of Maryland, College Park, Department of Geography
US Long Term Ecological Research

TEMS variables and T-sites

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Monitoring Sites (TEMS) database contains details on ecological variables and research sites which are undertaking ecological measurements. Data and sites relevant to biomass is listed below.


We would like to thank the following individuals for having provided inputs and comments to the biomass ECV.

. Sophia Mintier, NRC, FAO

. Josef Cihlar
Antonio Bombelli, University of Tuscia, Italy
. FAO Forestry Department
. Michael Brady, GOFC-GOLD Project Office, Natural Resources Canada
. Matieu Henry, University of Tuscia, Italy
. Martin Herold, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany
. Christiane Schmullius, Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany
. Maurizio Santoro, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden
. Aleksi Lehtonen, Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla), Finland


We welcome your inputs, comments and queries. Please send feedback to the GTOS Secretariat.

The above activities are part of Task Number CL-06-03 of the GEOSS implementation plan of GEO.

T1-River | T2-Water Use  | T3-Ground Water | T4-Lake | T5-Snow | T6-Galciers |
T7-Frost | T8-Albedo | T9-Land | T10-fAPAR | T11-LAI | T12-Biomass | T13-Fire |
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© FAO   ::   Global Terrestrial Observing System - GTOS   ::   11 November 2009