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Value of world’s forest carbon underestimated by more than 20 percent

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EDINBURGH, UK: Carbomap, an environmental survey company, has completed a three-dimensional carbon map of a forested region in Costa Rica. The map reveals that the actual carbon content is 22 percent higher than published values using traditional satellite methods of measuring forest carbon.

Estimated using approved methodologies by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the global forest carbon stocks are understood to contain 638 billion tonnes of carbon, which may be valued at more than $3.8 trillion (using an average price of $6 per tonne of carbon).

Underpinning any carbon credit trading is the need for accurate carbon stock calculations. Carbon stock calculations and their ongoing verification can therefore represent significant costs within any carbon trading transaction, and accuracy is important.

The data collected by Carbomap shows that the value of protecting global forest carbon could be being significantly underestimated, potentially by as much as $800 billion.

In collaboration with the Global Conservation Standard, Carbomap used data collected by NASA's experimental LVIS airborne laser scanning system to better estimate the above-ground carbon stocks in a project area. This is the first time that fully volumetric LiDAR data of this kind has been used as a tool for valuing forest carbon.

Using satellite-collected data from existing scientific studies, the forested area in Costa Rica was estimated to contain between 14.4 and 16.3 million tonnes of carbon. However, using the more detailed information available from the airborne LVIS system, Carbomap estimates the same area to contain at least 19.8 million tonnes of carbon.

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