Posted on 21 Sep 2011
The world’s established forests remove 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon per year from the atmosphere – equivalent to one third of current annual fossil fuel emissions – according to new research published today in the journal Science.
This is the first time volumes of the greenhouse gas absorbed from the atmosphere by tropical, temperate and boreal forests have been so clearly identified.
"This is really a timely breakthrough with which we can now clearly demonstrate how forests and changes in landscape such as wildfire or forest regrowth impact the removal or release of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2)," says CSIRO co-author of the paper: A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests, Dr Pep Canadell.
"What this research tells us is that forests play a much larger role as carbon sinks as a result of tree growth and forest expansion."
Dr Canadell, who is also the Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project, said the international research team combined data from forest inventories, models and satellites to construct a profile of forests as major regulators of atmospheric CO2.
In addition to the large carbon sink, he said scientists now know that deforestation is responsible for emitting 2.9 billion tonnes of carbon per year – an exchange that had not been known in the past because of a lack of data. For comparison, total emissions from fossil fuels are currently above eight billion tonnes of carbon per year.
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