East Africa poised to monitor carbon emission

Tuesday August 03 2021
A factory emits smoke

A factory emits smoke. PHOTO | FILE


East Africa will soon be able to monitor how much carbon dioxide or methane is produced by particular activity at any particular point in time thanks to a NASA-aided system that combines observable ground data, real time satellite measurements of carbon dioxide and next-generation microbial soil modelling.

Cornell University researchers will develop the system that combines what they called “bottom-up“ ecological modelling with “top-down“ satellite data, thanks to a three-year, $1 million NASA grant, which began on July 1.

The researchers said last week Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia have experienced deforestation will be covered by the system.

The system estimate will help in monitoring increase in carbon gained from potential afforestation, as well as how long this accumulation could take. These East African countries have ambitious climate mitigation programmes to sequester carbon in soils. Since the countries don't produce a lot of energy that emits carbon, their mitigation measures rely on putting carbon into ecosystems such as soils.

It is hoped that the rigorous, accurate and low-cost carbon monitoring system will help policymakers verify the effectiveness of their efforts when they seek international climate financing. The data will also inform food-security policies, as more soil carbon provides crop resilience to climate change.

Carbon also helps store more water in soils, making crops more tolerant and resistant to droughts, which increases yields.


“There is a really high demand now for using modern technologies to quantify carbon stocks and fluxes on regional and global scales, so that we can reduce the costs and maintain accuracy and rigor,“ said assistant professor of geospatial sciences at the university’s School of Integrative Plant Science Soil and Crop Sciences Section, and principal investigator of the grant, Ying Sun.

“If we're going to invest in storing carbon in soils and vegetation for climate-change mitigation and soil health, we need to be able to monitor the impact and how effective the interventions actually are," added Co-PI and senior research associate Dominic Woolf. "We need to have large scale systems of what's happening below ground," he added.