NASA Map Reveals Massive Carbon Storage of Tropical Forests

Image via NASA

Tropical forests store an enormous amount of the world's carbon, and it's therefore pretty important that we don't chop them down (deforestation already accounts for 15-20% of the world's carbon emissions -- and that we know where they are, and how much carbon they absorb. NASA released this image of where that carbon gets sucked down, replete with interesting data like this:

The map reveals that in the early 2000s, forests in the 75 tropical countries studied contained 247 billion tons of carbon. For perspective, about 10 billion tons of carbon is released annually to the atmosphere from combined fossil fuel burning and land use changes.

The researchers found that forests in Latin America hold 49 percent of the carbon in the world's tropical forests. For example, Brazil's carbon stock alone, at 61 billion tons, almost equals all of the carbon stock in sub-Saharan Africa, at 62 billion tons.,"

Plowing through those forests would be nothing short of devastating to the world's climate system -- and yet, that's exactly what we're doing. If we continue consuming forests at the rate we have been over the last 40 years, kiss much of those carbon strongholds goodbye.

Reports from Brazil oscillate between good and bad years regarding Amazon deforestation -- this is a bad one, so far -- but the trend is only going one way: less trees. We're going to need to see more novel thinking like the partnership between Norway and Guyana, which has agreed to protect its trees in exchange for investment from the Scandinavian nation, if we're going to succeed in preserving one of the world's most important resources.

The NASA press release has more.

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