Twenty Percent of CO2 Emissions Absorbed by Threatened Tropical Forests
February 19, 2009
Globally, tropical trees in undisturbed forest are absorbing nearly a fifth of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels. The researchers show that remaining tropical forests remove a massive 4.8 billion tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere each year. This includes a previously unknown carbon sink in Africa, mopping up 1.2 billion tons of CO2 each year.
Published on Thursday in Nature, the 40-year study of African tropical forests -- one third of the world's total tropical forest -- shows that for at least the last few decades each hectare of intact African forest has trapped an extra 0.6 tons of carbon per year. The scientists then analyzed the new African data together with South American and Asian findings to assess the total sink in tropical forests. Analysis of these 250,000 tree records reveals that, on average, remaining undisturbed forests are trapping carbon, showing that they are a globally significant carbon sink.