Degraded Tropical Forests Now Release More Carbon Than They Store

GR: Brazil and other tropical nations are still allowing companies to cut and burn their forests for wood, pasture, and cropland. Deforestation is also occurring outside the tropics. The U. S. Forest Service, for instance, still permits forest clear cutting a century after the U. S. Forest Service was created to prevent clear cutting. And of course, the “wake-up call” sounded by the research is late and is unlikely to be heeded. The lungs of the Earth are shriveling up and it is the short-sighted nature of humans to permit this in return for a share of the profits (more on this story here: Washington PostReutersThe GuardianPBS NewsHour).

Forest thinning in Bolivia. Wayne Walker

“Tropical forests may no longer be acting as carbon sinks and could be releasing more carbon than they store, according to troubling new research.

“A study published Thursday in the journal Science finds that forests across Asia, Latin America and Africa release 425 metric tons of carbon per year, which is equal to nearly one-tenth of the U.S.’ annual carbon footprint.

“Researchers found nearly 70 percent of this loss is caused by small-scale degradation, the result of selective logging, drought and wildfire. All is not lost for forests, however. Researchers say that policies to curb deforestation, reduce degradation and restore land could turn forests back into carbon sinks.

“These findings provide the world with a wakeup call on forests,” the study’s lead author, Alessandro Baccini, a scientist with the U.S.-based Woods Hole Research Center, said in a statement.

“If we’re to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels, we need to drastically reduce emissions and greatly increase forests’ ability to absorb and store carbon.” –Climate Nexus (Degraded Tropical Forests Now Release More Carbon Than They Store, New Study Finds.)