Rapid remote monitoring reveals spatial and temporal hotspots of carbon loss in Africa’s rainforests

Csillik, Ovidiu; Reiche, Johannes; Sy, Veronique De; Araza, Arnan; Herold, Martin


Spatially explicit monitoring of tropical forest aboveground carbon is an important prerequisite for better targeting and assessing forest conservation efforts and more transparent reporting of carbon losses. Here, we combine near-real-time forest disturbance alerts based on all-weather radar data with aboveground carbon stocks to provide carbon loss estimates at high spatial and temporal resolution for the rainforests of Africa. We identified spatial and temporal hotspots of carbon loss for 2019 and 2020 for the 23 countries analyzed, led by different drivers of forest disturbance. We found that 75.7% of total annual carbon loss in the Central African Republic happened within the first three months of 2020, while 89% of the annual carbon loss in Madagascar occurred within the last five months of 2020. Our detailed spatiotemporal mapping of carbon loss creates opportunities for much more transparent, timely, and efficient assessments of forest carbon changes both at the level of specific activities, for national-level GHG reporting, and large area comparative analysis.