Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Distinguished Lecture: Carbon Stocks of African Dryland Trees from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea South of the Sahara and North of the Equator

Abstract: It’s challenging to determine the carbon content of dryland trees outside of forests with satellite data because trees are discrete and small. We overcame this using 326,000 sub-meter commercial satellite images to map individual tree crowns in African drylands at the 50 cm scale, mapping 10 billion tree crowns over 10 million km2 using high performance computing and machine learning. We used allometry to convert tree crown area into leaf, root, and wood carbon at the tree level with a carbon uncertainty of ±20%. We developed a viewer to access our 10 billion tree carbon inventory, from tree(1) to tree(1010). Dr. Tucker will describe how this was achieved and the implications of this work. This work appeared in the March 2, 2023, issue of Nature.

About the speaker: Compton Tucker, a native of Carlsbad, New Mexico, came to NASA/Goddard as a post-doctoral fellow in late 1975 after receiving his Ph.D. degree from Colorado State University, and in 1977 became an employee of NASA. At NASA/Goddard, Tucker has used satellite data to study the Earth in research areas that include defeating the desert locust, food security, ecologically-coupled diseases, and the carbon cycle. Since 2015, he has devoted most of his time complementing NASA satellite observations with commercial satellite data. He also took part from 2002 to 2012 in NASA’s Space Archaeology Program, leading a group that assisted archaeologists mapping ancient sites with ground-penetrating radar and magnetometry in Turkey, at the sites of Troy and at Gordian, the home of King Midas, where Alexander the Great cut the famous Gordian Knot in 333 BC.

This will be a hybrid event: In-person in the CIRES auditorium, virtual via YouTube:

*light refreshments to follow


Monday, April 24, 2023
3:00 pm




  • CIRES employees
  • CU Boulder employees
  • General Public
  • NOAA employees
  • Science collaborators


  • Seminar
  • Open to Public