Weighing Earth’s Forests Using the Space Canopy

European Space Agency BIOMASS mission It is scheduled to be launched in 2023 to provide a space survey of Earth’s forests, allowing scientists to monitor forest biomass and determine the effects of deforestation on climate change.

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Why is it necessary to monitor the biomass of Earth’s forests?

The COP26 The pledge on degradation and deforestation from more than 100 leaders representing nearly 85 percent of the world’s forests is a positive step in restoring the balance between carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and uptake by forests.

Forests greatly influence climate due to their effect on carbon dioxide (CO .).2), primary greenhouse gases. Forests reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere2 levels by uptake of carbon by photosynthesis and storage in plant biomass.

However, most of the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere due to forest degradation and deforestation, particularly in the tropics, accelerating climate change. Recently Research It indicates that the Amazon rainforest releases more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it stores.

Despite the existing new undertaking, observing the global cycle is necessary to gain insight into the effects of forest shifts on our climate.

The biomass mission: how will it work?

BIOMASS, the European Space Agency’s comprehensive space satellite, will use a new measurement approach to provide new data on forest elevation and biomass from space.

It will be the first satellite to carry a fully polarized P-band radar. Unlike previous missions, the new 70cm radar will enable the BIOMASS mission to penetrate the forest layer and map hidden roots and branches.

Once in space, the satellite will scan the Earth, pierce the canopies and create a 3D map of forests around the world. Mission data will be made public to give everyone consistent and unbiased assessments of all of Earth’s biomass.

Biomass mission

Video credit: Space4Climate / Youtube.com

Important importance of biomass forests

Although tropical forests are important to the climate, there is a lack of data on their biomass due to their size, diversity, isolation and inaccessibility. They also have a greater biomass density than most of the well-studied forests in North America, Eurasia, and Europe.

BIOMASS is designed to study these high tropical forests from space with a powerful reflective radar antenna. This radar maintains a delicate balance between sensitivity to biomass and technological feasibility in the ionosphere.

Mission scientists emphasized the importance of biomass as a way to draw attention to the consequences of global warming. The length of the mission will also allow climate change experts to better monitor the progress of climate change and prepare for its repercussions.

Professor Sean Keegan, Chief Scientist of the expedition, state On the importance of biomass:

This mission will give us unprecedented insight into the structure of forests around the world and how changes in forests, both losses from deforestation and gains from regrowth and reforestation, affect the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into our atmosphere. The study will basically weigh the forests – it will tell us their weight and length, and we will be able to see how they change over time.

The BIOMASS mission data will reduce key uncertainties in current estimates of carbon fluxes and stocks on Earth, in particular carbon fluxes related to forest degradation, land use change and forest regeneration. It will also provide 3D maps of forests using radar tomography.


In addition to providing unparalleled and accurate insight into forest biomass, the Space Canopy will examine the terrain to determine where water previously flowed beneath the Earth’s surface and possibly discover sites of archaeological interest.

This mission will also provide data on ice sheet movement, Earth’s upper atmosphere, and basic geology in dry locations.


Although BIOMASS will be the first satellite to launch a P-band radar into orbit, the technology was initially tested in the late 80s Over the woods in eastern England. However, at the time, such a system seemed unlikely to reach space because the specific radar frequencies were intended for military use.

The European Space Agency encouraged the ITU to provide a small window into this sensitive region of the electromagnetic spectrum for scientific research.

Conclusion and future prospects for the biomass mission

Although it is a space mission, the success of the project depends on scientists actively participating in biomass surveys on Earth. When the project is launched, their data will be critical to ensuring the integrity of the satellite data.

The powerful satellite reflector antenna has already been manufactured, with a target launch in 2023The mission is in its final stages of development.

The BIOMASS mission will soon play a critical role in providing unique data on the state of our forests, their dynamic change over time, and advancing our understanding of the carbon cycle and climate change.

References and additional reading

Amos, c. (2022) Biomass: Space Giant Broly To Weigh Earth’s Forests. [Online]. BBC. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2022).

ESA. (2022) Biomass: the European Space Agency’s forest mission. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2022).

ESA. (2022) Biomass: The weight of Earth’s forests from space. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2022).

JATTI, LV, BASO, LS, MILLER, JB and others. (2021) The Amazon as a carbon source linked to deforestation and climate change. temper nature.

Grantham and Quigan Scholars. S (2016) BIOMASS space mission “Weighing” Earth’s forests approaches launch. [Online]. Grantham Center at the University of Sheffield. Available at: (Accessed September 16, 2022).

Koegan. Q (2022) How does a forest weigh from space? [Online]. Sheffield University. Available at: (Accessed September 14, 2022).

United nations. (2021) Glasgow leaders’ declaration on forests and land use. [Online]The United Nations Climate Change Conference UK 2021 is available at: (Accessed 15 September 2022).

Valero, b. (2022) A satellite built by the UK to “weigh” the Earth’s forests. [Online]. Engineering and technology. Available at: (Accessed 15 September 2022).

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