Rödig E., Cuntz M., Heinke J., Rammig A., Huth A. (2017):
Spatial heterogeneity of biomass and forest structure of the Amazon rain forest:
Linking remote sensing, forest modelling and field inventory
Global Ecology and Biogeography, 26:1292-1302.


Aim: Estimating the current spatial variation of biomass in the Amazon rain forest is a challenge and
remains a source of substantial uncertainty in the assessment of the global carbon cycle. Precise estimates
need to consider small-scale variations of forest structures resulting from local disturbances, on
the one hand, and require large-scale information on the state of the forest that can be detected by
remote sensing, on the other hand. In this study, we introduce a novel method that links a forest gap
model and a canopy height map to derive the biomass distribution of the Amazon rain forest.
Location: Amazon rain forest.
Methods: An individual-based forest model was applied to estimate the variation of aboveground
biomass across the Amazon rain forest. The forest model simulated individual trees; hence, it
allowed the direct comparison of simulated and observed canopy heights from remote sensing.
The comparison enabled the detection of disturbed forest states and the derivation of a
simulation-based biomass map at 0.16 ha resolution.
Results: Simulated biomass values ranged from 20 to 490 t (dry mass)/ha across 7.8 Mio km2 of
Amazon rain forest.We estimated a total aboveground biomass stock of 76 GtC, with a coefficient
of variation of 45%. We found mean differences of only 15% when comparing biomass values of
the map with 114 field inventories. The forest model enables the derivation of additional estimates,
such as basal area and stem density.
Main conclusions: Linking a canopy height map with an individual-based forest model captures
the spatial variation of biomass in the Amazon rain forest at high resolution. The study demonstrates
how this linkage allows for quantifying the spatial variation in forest structure caused by
tree-level to regional-scale disturbances. It thus provides a basis for large-scale analyses on the
heterogeneous structure of tropical forests and their carbon cycle.


Download maps of above-ground biomass, basal area and number of stems here.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact Edna Rödig (
Don’t forget to cite the paper when using this data.