Similar Tropical Forests Store Much Different Amounts of Carbon: New Report

peru cloud forest photo

photo: Lori via flickr

While we've just learned that over 80% of new farmland in the tropics came at the expense of forests, another new study shows us that when it comes to calculating how much carbon tropical forests store, variable on the ground conditions make estimating how much sequestration potential forests have more tricky than thought. In fact, for some areas this has been overestimated by one third. New Scientist reports that research from Carnegie Institution for Science's Greg Asner and team says,

used satellite mapping, laser probing of forest undergrowth from aircraft and local ground surveys across a large area of Peruvian rainforest to crack the problem of estimating how much carbon is locked up in forests. But the new technique has revealed a large, previously unknown variability in the density of carbon stored in apparently similar forests.

In the Madre de Dios region of Peru, the IPCC estimate of carbon storage potential is about 587 million tons, while Asner's measurements show it to be about 395 million tons.

More about the mapping that led to this assessment: First Even Carbon Map Shows Global Warming in Peru's Amazon

While such discrepancies have clear implications for the UN's Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation program, Asner and team also confirmed what previous research has shown, that forest doesn't have to be cleared to be a source of major carbon emissions. Forest degradation alone was responsible for about 50% of all carbon lost in forests.

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More on Tropical Forests:
Amazon Deforestation Increases Malaria Rate by 50%
Stopping Deforestation, Greening Agriculture Better Than Carbon Capture & Storage: UNEP
Carbon Emissions From Amazon Deforestation Increase as Older Forest Cleared

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