First evidence of peat domes in the Congo Basin using LiDAR from a fixed-wing drone

Ian J. Davenport, Iain McNicol, Edward T. A. Mitchard, Greta Dargie, Ifo Suspense, Brice Milongo, Yannick E. Bocko, Donna Hawthorne, Ian Lawson, Andy J. Baird, Susan Page, Simon L. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The world’s most extensive tropical peatlands occur in the Cuvette Centrale depression in the Congo Basin, which stores 30.6 petagrams of carbon (95% CI, 6.3–46.8). Improving our understanding of the genesis, development and functioning of these under-studied peatlands requires knowledge of their topography and, in particular, whether the peat surface is domed, as this implies a rain-fed system. Here we use a laser altimeter mounted on an unmanned airborne vehicle (UAV) to measure peat surface elevation along two transects at the edges of a peatland, in the northern Republic of Congo, to centimetre accuracy and compare the results with an analysis of nearby satellite LiDAR data (ICESat and ICESat-2). The LiDAR elevations on both transects show an upward slope from the peatland edge, suggesting a surface elevation peak of around 1.8 m over ~20 km. While modest, this domed shape is consistent with the peatland being rainfed. In-situ peat depth measurements and our LiDAR results indicate that this peatland likely formed at least 10,000 years BP in a large shallow basin ~40 km wide and ~3 m deep.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2196
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2020


  • Peat
  • LiDAR
  • Dome
  • Carbon
  • ICE Sat
  • ICE


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