Monitoring tropical forest carbon stocks and emissions using Planet satellite data

Ovidiu Csillik, Pramukta Kumar, Joseph Mascaro, Tara O’Shea, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Tropical forests are crucial for mitigating climate change, but many forests continue to be driven from carbon sinks to sources through human activities. To support more sustainable forest uses, we need to measure and monitor carbon stocks and emissions at high spatial and temporal resolution. We developed the first large-scale very high-resolution map of aboveground carbon stocks and emissions for the country of Peru by combining 6.7 million hectares of airborne LiDAR measurements of top-of-canopy height with thousands of Planet Dove satellite images into a random forest machine learning regression workflow, obtaining an R2 of 0.70 and RMSE of 25.38 Mg C ha−1 for the nationwide estimation of aboveground carbon density (ACD). The diverse ecosystems of Peru harbor 6.928 Pg C, of which only 2.9 Pg C are found in protected areas or their buffers. We found significant carbon emissions between 2012 and 2017 in areas aggressively affected by oil palm and cacao plantations, agricultural and urban expansions or illegal gold mining. Creating such a cost-effective and spatially explicit indicators of aboveground carbon stocks and emissions for tropical countries will serve as a transformative tool to quantify the climate change mitigation services that forests provide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17831
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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