Tropical Africa: Land Use, Biomass, and Carbon Estimates for 1980

S. Brown and G. Gaston

DOI: 10.3334/CDIAC/lue.ndp055

This document describes the contents of a digital database containing maximum potential aboveground biomass, land use, and estimated biomass and carbon data for 1980 and describes a methodology that may be used to extend this data set to 1990 and beyond based on population and land cover data. The biomass data and carbon estimates are for woody vegetation in Tropical Africa. These data were collected to reduce the uncertainty associated with the possible magnitude of historical releases of carbon from land use change. Tropical Africa is defined here as encompassing 22.7 106 km2 of the earth's land surface and includes those countries that for the most part are located in Tropical Africa. Countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and in southern Africa (i.e., Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Western Sahara) have maximum potential biomass and land cover information but do not have biomass or carbon estimate.

The database was developed using the GRID module in the ARC/INFOTM geographic information system. Source data were obtained from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the U.S. National Geophysical Data Center, and a limited number of biomass-carbon density case studies. These data were used to derive the maximum potential and actual (ca. 1980) aboveground biomass values at regional and country levels. The land-use data provided were derived from a vegetation map originally produced for the FAO by the International Institute of Vegetation Mapping, Toulouse, France.

Analyses conducted with this database found that 18% of Tropical Africa was in closed forest and 36% was in open forest in 1980. These forested lands contained over 138 109 Mg of aboveground live biomass, equivalent to 69 x 109 Mg of carbon. Closed forests and open forests had mean aboveground biomass values of 209 Mg/ha and 67 Mg/ha, respectively, in 1980. These values are down from maximum potential aboveground live biomass values of 296 Mg/ha for closed forest and 108 Mg/ha for open forest.

These data are available as a Numeric Data Package (NDP) from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (via mail or FTP). The 26 files consist of seven ARC/INFOTM export files, eight flat ASCII data files, ten FORTRAN and SASTM data retrieval files, and one descriptive file that explains the contents and format of each data file. The documentation contains information on the methods used in calculating each variable; detailed descriptions of file contents and formats; and a discussion of the sources, restrictions, and limitations of the data.

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