Warming World May Release Stored Carbon From Tropical Forest Soils

tropical forest photo

photo: Dr Emma Sayer

Both calculating how many carbon emissions are stored in forests and how this changes over time is a complicated business, but we certainly know that they are massive stores of carbon and deforestation is one of the major causes of climate change. Some new research raises some important questions about how climate change may enhance tree growth in tropical forests and what this will mean for the carbon stored in the soil there.Dr Emma Sayer from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology says, "Our study demonstrates that interactions between plants and soil can have a massive impact on carbon cycling." (Eureka Alert)

That conclusion is based on a six-year study in Panama which looked at how the increase in litterfall (dead leaves, branches, etc), resulting from potential increase in tree growth in the tropics from climate change, changes the carbon storage in the soil.

Dr Sayer's team found that additional litterfall provided additional energy to microorganisms which in turn stimulated decomposition of carbon in the soil. A 30% increase in litterfall could release 0.6 tons of carbon per hectare from tropical lowland forests per year--offsetting some of the greater carbon storage resulting from more tree growth.

The team estimates that the 30% litterfall increase would be the result of a 150ppm increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere--well within what will happen under a business-as-usual emission growth scenario.

Read the original research: Nature Climate Change
More on Carbon Sequestration & Forests
Carbon Emissions From Amazon Deforestation Increase as Older Forest Cleared
Forests Soak Up Tons Of Fossil Fuel Emissions, But Deforestation Releases Even More Than Thought

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