ESA opts for Biomass satellite to measure Earth’s forests from space

7 May 2013

Biomass measuring concept. Image credit: ESA/AOES

The European Space Agency (ESA) has given the go-ahead for Europe’s next Earth-observing mission. Set to launch in 2020, the Biomass satellite will map and measure forests, as well as calculate their carbon content.

Scientists will use data from the Biomass radar mission to determine the amount of biomass and carbon stored in the world’s forests with greater accuracy than ever before, the ESA said today.

Its Earth Observation Programme board today approved Biomass out of three candidates for the next Earth-observing mission.

The satellite is expected to launch in 2020 for a five-year mission that will provide, for the first time, P-band radar measurements from space to help improve scientists’ understanding of the role that forests play in the Earth’s carbon cycle and in climate change.

The ESA said Biomass should also give reliable insights into tropical forest biomass to help implement the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative. This is an international effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and land degradation in developing countries.

“Biomass is an innovative new addition to the Earth Explorer satellite series,” said Volker Liebig, director of ESA’s Earth Observation programmes. “It will play an important role in quantifying forest biomass – information necessary to better understand the carbon cycle.”

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic