African Tropical Forests Store As Much Carbon As Their Amazonian Counterparts - That Rate's Increasing Too

africa deforestation photo

Tropical forests may be absorbing more carbon, but that probably won't make up for losses due to deforestation. Photo: Jonathan Talbot/World Resources Institute via flickr

While the problem of tropical deforestation knows no national or continental boundaries, most of the time when people talk about carbon sequestration in tropical forests then immediately mention the Amazon, or perhaps if they're familiar with biofuels, forests in Indonesia or Malaysia. Well, a new study finds that tropical forests in Africa absorb just as much carbon as tropical forests elsewhere. Perhaps intuitive, but now there's scientific study to back that up:Done by an international team of researchers led by Simon Lewis at the University of Leeds, the study found that not only do African tropical forests store as much carbon as those in the Amazon, the amount they absorb per hectare is increasing at similar rates to those in the Amazon: About 630 kilograms additional per year.

So Why the Increase?
The researchers speculate that there are probably two factors at play in the increasing absorption of carbon: The first is that some major disturbance in the forests "hundreds, or thousands" of years ago diminished the extent of the forests and they have been growing back ever since; the second is that, "Perhaps the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is effectively fertilizing tropical tree growth."

Stopping Deforestation Crucial
No before anyone leap to comment "I told you so! Global warming isn't all bad!", let's remember that at current deforestation rates the amount of forest being chopped down (and in some places releasing massive amounts of carbon stored in the soil) is probably well outpacing any increase in carbon sequestration in the remaining forest.

I'd call the finding that these forests are absorbing more carbon to be bittersweet at best, with heavy emphasis on the bitter. The takeaway being that if we want these forests to continue to be massive carbon sinks we need to better protect them, stop deforestation and let these forests re-grow as much as possible.

via: AFP/Yahoo News
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