Even in recovery, previously logged tropical forests are carbon sources: Study

Even in recovery, previously logged tropical forests are carbon sources: Study

Tropical forests play a key role in our efforts to stabilize the global climate. As a readymade means of ameliorating our continued greenhouse gas emissions, tree-clad tropical landscapes provide us with some much-needed hope. But as we relentlessly degrade and disturb them, how are we affecting their crucial capacity to lock away carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? This is a question scientists have investigated for decades. Recent studies, for instance, have revealed that intense deforestation and fires have transformed parts of the Brazilian Amazon from massive carbon sinks to sources. While the situation in the Amazon is cause for concern, frustratingly little is known about the true forest carbon balance in other parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia. Now, a new study indicates that logged forests in Malaysian Borneo are a “significant and persistent” net source of carbon emissions for at least one decade after disturbance. Based on their results, the authors say that rates of carbon sequestration in recovering tropical forests around the world could be “considerably lower than currently estimated.” A logging gap in Malaysian Borneo. Although new trees will colonize the gap, emissions from deadwood and disturbed soil result in net carbon emissions. Photo courtesy of Zoe G. Davies The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, counter the commonly held belief that recovering and degraded forests become net carbon sinks due to the rapid regrowth of trees and other vegetation on newly vacated land. This reasoning is premised on studies that…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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