Boreal Forests Store Twice as Much Carbon as Tropical - So Why Aren't We Doing More to Protect Them?

boreal forest photo

photo: Gabriel Legaré via flickr.

With all the focus on tropical forest conservation and the amount of carbon emissions resulting from its deforestation, are we overlooking protecting the massive amount of carbon stored in the world's boreal forests? That's the question asked in a new report, The Carbon the World Forgot [PDF] -- and consider it shows that boreal forests store on average twice as much carbon per area as do tropical forests, it's a question certainly worth asking:New research shows that the world's boreal forests store 22% of all carbon stored on the Earth's land surface -- the largest and most important terrestrial carbon storehouse, the report argues.

carbon storage by biome chart image

Peaty Soils Store Huge Amounts of Carbon
While in tropical forests the majority of carbon in generally stored in above-ground vegetation -- an exception being peatland tropical forests like those found in parts of Indonesia and Malaysia -- in boreal forests the high carbon storage is the result of slow accumulation of carbon in the peat soils and in permafrost.

Boreal Forests Store Carbon for 8,000 Years
The report authors argue boreal forests store carbon in ways more akin to oceans, keeping it out of the atmosphere for 6,000-8,000 years.


So what do we do to protect the boreal forest? The IPCC recommends at least half of Canada's boreal forests be protected from further disturbance and development.

In total, Canada's boreal forests are estimated to stored 208 billion tons of carbon (about two-thirds below-ground in peatlands).

Read more: The Carbon the World Forgot
Forest Conservation
Ontario Boreal Forest Half the Size of Texas to be Protected
Stopping Deforestation, Greening Agriculture Better Than Carbon Capture & Storage
Indigenous Rights Crucial to Reducing Carbon Emissions from Deforestation

Related Content on