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Press release | News | Climate | Environment
Droughts, record high temperatures and massive forest fires have recently seen vast swathes of the Australian forest go up in flames. Yet in all appearance, the biomass lost to the fires has quickly been replaced by the forest’s highly resilient vegetation. Confirmation of this has been sought using satellite observations to provide a real-time assessment of changes in the forest’s carbon-storage capacity. The data, collected and analysed by an international team of researchers led by the University of Oklahoma in collaboration with INRAE, the CEA and several universities around the world, extends to both the pre- and post-fire periods. The results appear on the first of September in Remote Sensing of Environment.
The past few years have been greatly troubled by drought and high temperatures across the world. The 2019-2020 fire season saw these harsh conditions bring massive forest fires to south-eastern Australia where the temperate forest has very high biomass values. In this period, 4 million hectares were burned, representing 20% of Australia's forests.
For these forests that were burned from the ground to the canopy, images from the SMOS satellite provided the evidence to calculate pre- and post-fire biomass, telling a story of rapid vegetation recovery. By late 2020, less than a year after the fires, grasses, shrubs and burned-but-not-dead eucalyptus trees were already growing back. But how exactly were the carbon losses and gains involved in this rapid regrowth to be measured?
The solution lay in the introduction by INRAE's researchers and their colleagues of two new parameters for their measurements:
Large loss and rapid recovery of vegetation cover and aboveground biomass over forest areas in Australia during 2019–2020, Remote Sensing of Environment, Volume 278, 2022, 113087, ISSN 0034-4257
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.