We’re big fans of building our own cleantech maps (see ours on lost ethanol and coal power). But we also love it when researchers like those at Woods Hole Research Center put together a whole lot of data that can be really useful to those running carbon-related businesses. Scientists there are working with a variety of data sources to create a comprehensive baseline of the carbon sinks from plants in the U.S.
The project, dubbed The National Biomass and Carbon Dataset 2000 (NBCD 2000), was started in 2005 and is funded by NASA and the Geological Survey. These researchers aren’t simply shading in the parts of the map that have trees on them. They’re using a combination of info from NASA satellites, topographic surveys, and forest and land use inventories collected by the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program. All that info delivers a three-dimensional map, complete with the vegetation’s canopy height, biomass and carbon stock.
This is extremely useful information for those cleantech entrepreneurs that make tree-hugging a tenet of their business plan. From tree-planting carbon offsetters to tree-squeezing biofuel brewers, this data could help them chart their business plans against a solid baseline. Carbon offsetters could use the data to determine exactly how much carbon they’ve sequestered in a reforestation project. Biofuel producers could use the data to ensure that they aren’t releasing more carbon by cutting down existing vegetation for feedstock plants.
On the “saving the world” side, the technology and methods of NBCD 2000 could be used to quantify more precisely the carbon cost of tropical deforestation and monitor the re-forestation projects currently taking place. Quantifying the size of gigantic, but largely unrecorded, carbon sinks like the coniferous forests of the Russian taiga could inform global carbon policy.
But entrepreneurs and policymakers will have to wait a bit before they can start to chart their leafy grooves with this data. Researchers have released data from just nine complete “mapping zones” from a total of 67. Scheduled for completion at the start of 2009, NBCD 2000 could be a big step towards creating the biggest carbon calculator of them all, tracking the biomass and carbon content of America’s forests and agriculture. When it all comes out, we’ll be looking for the best plant-based carbon sinks in the U.S.