Field: Climate change monitoring
Global Technical function: Sensing
Technical Function Unit: Automatized and remote sensing, Modelling
Geographic Area: Italy


Africa is severally affected by the consequences of climate change: floods and droughts are being more and more frequent due to global warming. However,
climate change monitoring has been poorly developed in Africa. The effect of African changes on global climate change is not known, nor is the influence of African processes for GHG source and depletion on the global carbon cycle. In addition, in the context of the Kyoto Protocol the ignorance about the composition of the total African gas emissions (gas budget) prevents from quantifying the potential carbon sequestration in Sub-Saharan Africa.

CARBOAFRICA was conceived as a boost for increasing the knowledge about carbon cycle and climate change in Africa. 15 Research Institutes, Universities and Public Associations, led by the University of Tuscia (Italy), worked together to obtain a first version of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) flux monitoring network. The overarching goal of the project aims to quantify, understand and predict GHG emissions in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well and their associated spatial and temporal variations. The project was funded under the Sixth Framework Program (FP6).

The main task of the project consisted in implementing a long-term observation system by integrating 20 intensive study sites. The new observation system was used as the basis for other applications by providing automated and remote sensing data. The development of this new system required a big effort to obtain different models for upscaling field data from site to continental level (Sub-Saharan Africa). Different scale levels were progressively studied along the project. First, a sub-regional scale included the most representative African ecosystems: open forest, mixed crop, mopane savannah, Eucalyptus plantations, grassland, Acacia forests, etc. The second and third levels were related to the both regional and continental scales, and were obtained by extrapolation (spatial and temporal) an integration of different models (SAFIRE, LPJ-GUESS, ORCHIDEE, CASA-CH4, etc). The integration of all the models was achieved by covering a broad time scale (from hours to centuries) and different processes (growth and phenology, GHG exchange, fire, etc).

 Case studies were located in Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Congo, Sudan, Mali, Ghana, Niger and Benin, and comprised sixteen existing eddy covariance sites, two new installations, and two stations for atmospheric measurements. Among the new sensing infrastructures that were developed, the flux tower of Ankasa Conservation Area was achieved. The tower reached 65 meters and was installed in the tropical forest of Ghana for understanding the processes that drive GHG sources and sinks, by monitoring carbon water and energy atmospherics exchanges. In addition, a mobile flux measurement platform was built and installed on an aircraft, for obtaining data related to carbon, water and energy fluxes across a latitudinal gradient of around 700km with significant climatic and ecological variations.

Another achievement of the project was a new methodology for estimating the spatial distribution of aboveground biomass from field data, Landsat images and Land Cover maps. This methodology was specifically developed in Uganda sites. Emissions of GHG from fire were also thoroughly studied, because their contribution to GHG balance was suspected to be high. Fire-related GHG emissions and fire-vegetation feedbacks were quantified. An integrated modelling methodology was also developed for investigating their regional and inter-annual variations. All the developed tools have been tested and validated in situ, so a level 7 in the TRL scale could be estimated for the project.