One-fifth of fossil-fuel emissions absorbed by threatened forests

Feb 18, 2009

An international team of scientists have discovered that rainforest trees are getting bigger. They are storing more carbon from the atmosphere in their trunks, which has significantly reduced the rate of climate change.

Globally, tropical trees in undisturbed forest are absorbing nearly a fifth of the CO2 released by burning fossil fuels. The researchers show that remaining tropical forests remove a massive 4.8 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere each year. This includes a previously unknown carbon sink in Africa, mopping up 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 each year

Published today in Nature, the 40 year study of African tropical forests-one third of the world's total tropical forest-shows that for at least the last few decades each hectare of intact African forest has trapped an extra 0.6 tonnes of carbon per year.

The scientists then analysed the new African data together with South American and Asian findings to assess the total sink in tropical forests. Analysis of these 250,000 tree records reveals that, on average, remaining undisturbed forests are trapping carbon, showing that they are a globally significant carbon sink.

"We are receiving a free subsidy from nature," says Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds, and the lead author of the paper. "Tropical forest trees are absorbing about 18% of the CO2 added to the atmosphere each year from burning fossil fuels, substantially buffering the rate of climate change."

The reason why the trees are getting bigger and mopping up carbon is unclear. A leading suspect is the extra CO2 in the atmosphere itself, which may be acting like a fertiliser. However, Dr Lewis warns, "Whatever the cause, we cannot rely on this sink forever. Even if we preserve all remaining tropical forest, these trees will not continue getting bigger indefinitely."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that globally human activity emits 32 billion tonnes of CO2 each year, but only 15 billion tonnes actually stays in the atmosphere adding to climate change. The new research shows exactly where some of the 'missing' 17 billion tonnes per year is going.

"It's well known that about half of the 'missing' carbon is being dissolved in to the oceans, and that the other half is going somewhere on land in vegetation and soils, but we were not sure precisely where. According to our study about half the total carbon 'land sink' is in tropical forest trees," explains Dr Lewis.

The study is released at a time when protecting tropical forests is gaining widespread support, and is likely to be a key theme of the upcoming negotiations to limit carbon emissions in Copenhagen later this year.

Co-author on the study, Dr Lee White, Gabon's Chief Climate Change Scientist said, "To get an idea of the value of the sink, the removal of nearly 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by intact tropical forests, based on realistic prices for a tonne of carbon, should be valued at around £13 billion per year. This is a compelling argument for conserving tropical forests."

"Predominantly rich polluting countries should be transferring substantial resources to countries with tropical forests to reduce deforestation rates and promote alternative development pathways," says Dr Lewis.

There are also broader implications for rainforest biodiversity, as the ecology of tropical forests changes. Further study is needed on how the interactions of the millions of species that live in the tropics are being affected by the increasing size of rainforest trees.

Source: University of Leeds

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GrayMouser
3 / 5 (6) Feb 18, 2009
Send money fast!
dachpyarvile
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2009
"The reason why the trees are getting bigger and mopping up carbon is unclear. A leading suspect is the extra CO2 in the atmosphere itself, which may be acting like a fertiliser."

This is a 'duh' moment for the world of science in the IPCC camp. It is already known that trees do grow larger when levels of CO2 increase, as do other plants. And this includes undersea algaes. Prehistoric moss--when the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were in the 1000s ppm--grew as high as the average human being or higher.

And, IPCC religious adherents, do not even attempt to tell us that protein levels are lower in the plants as some have tried to maintain. Both protein and cellulose are required for plant superstructure to be built properly and function properly.

What is more, grass also stores a lot of carbon in its tissues in the form of cellulose and other carbonaceous chemicals. Genes are switching on and the plants are adapting right under our eyes to handle the increases of CO2--and the plants like it.
gmurphy
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 19, 2009
what about ocean acidification?, what about rapidly changing climate?, heat waves and drought?, do the plants like these things? Take a look at the companies on this list http://www.us-cap.org/ These are profit driven enterprises demanding a reduction in CO2 emissions even though it will result in a loss of profits. Any cheap comments along the lines of "send money fast" do not hold up for these commercial entities, furthermore, the scientific resources available to these companies are far less susceptible to environmental interests and yet they still acknowledge the danger of continued high levels of CO2 emissions. Of course it's easier to spout cheap shots against good science from the anonymity of an internet message board than to admit that your raison d'etre is scientific bigotry and atavistic tribal ignorance :-P
Velanarris
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 19, 2009
what about ocean acidification?, what about rapidly changing climate?, heat waves and drought?, do the plants like these things?
Does CO2 cause these things? That, as so far, remains to be seen. It's hypothesized but not proven, so to subject it as evidence for CO2 being bad, is akin to me saying "I drove to the store and got into a car accident, going to the store causes all car accidents."
Take a look at the companies on this list http://www.us-cap.org/ These are profit driven enterprises demanding a reduction in CO2 emissions even though it will result in a loss of profits.

How exactly would that result in a loss of profits if by acting like the environmentally conscientious company they claim to be will result in a huge gain in volume of sales to environmentally conscientious people?

If I make a product and sell it to 10 people who need it at a profit of a dollar I make 10 dollars.

If I launch an eco friendly campaign and change my manufacturing methods resulting in a reduction in profit to $.50 but gain 100 loyal eco-friendly customers I've now made $50 I wouldn't have made otherwise.

Yes I reduced my profit per item, but my volume went through the roof because of what I "said" I would do.

By the way, take another look at your link. Over 50% of those companies are not profitable, and have been blamed in whole or in part with our current environmental woes. Honestly, Shell Oil, GM, Pepsi, Chrysler?
Arkaleus
4 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2009
Obviously the trees are ONLY absorbing CO2 caused by human activity. This is due to the preference of trees, which is to the "sweeter" CO2 similar to that which is found in carbonated beverages and combustion exhaust.

Humans generate perhaps 4% of the total CO2 released into the atmosphere each year.

This would indicate an EMERGENCY requiring each of us to pay large sums of money.

Therefore, using IngSoc NewMath techniques it is obvious that this 4% contribution is driving 100% of all bad weather.

The trees of this region are quite simply engaging in a vast conspiracy against human civilization, and rudely growing wider and thicker to confuse climatologists.

Again, this crisis presents us with only one choice -Immediate termination of all independent nation-states, an end to unregulated energy consumption, and suspension of civil liberties.
Roach
3 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2009
I have to call this one, between the 80% by the oceans the 20% by the endangered forest, the other forests and acid rain then about 140% to 200% of the emmisions is processed, someone is lying.
dachpyarvile
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 20, 2009
what about ocean acidification?, what about rapidly changing climate?, heat waves and drought?, do the plants like these things? Take a look at the companies on this list http://www.us-cap.org/ These are profit driven enterprises demanding a reduction in CO2 emissions even though it will result in a loss of profits. Any cheap comments along the lines of "send money fast" do not hold up for these commercial entities, furthermore, the scientific resources available to these companies are far less susceptible to environmental interests and yet they still acknowledge the danger of continued high levels of CO2 emissions. Of course it's easier to spout cheap shots against good science from the anonymity of an internet message board than to admit that your raison d'etre is scientific bigotry and atavistic tribal ignorance :-P


You seriously need to learn your history. Look up "Dust Bowl" and like terms relating to the 1930s. CO2 was lower then than now and we still had some nasty drought conditions. CO2 is not the cause of droughts. If anything, it increases H2O vapor levels as part of the positive feedback loop of the greenhouse effect, but only even there to a point.
MikeB
4 / 5 (4) Feb 20, 2009
Of course it's easier to spout cheap shots against good scientific scepticism from the anonymity of an internet message board than to admit that your raison d'etre is collectivistic scientocracy and pedantic sophistry. :-P

See... when you use big words you are automatically right...
KBK
1 / 5 (3) Feb 22, 2009
We are reaching an acidification threshold of and in the oceans, regardless.

Naysayers:
"Be Careful with that Ax, Eugene", as Roger Waters said.
dachpyarvile
5 / 5 (2) Feb 22, 2009
We are reaching an acidification threshold of and in the oceans, regardless.

Naysayers:
"Be Careful with that Ax, Eugene", as Roger Waters said.


No we are not. The ocean still holds its alkalinity. 7.0 is neutral ph. We are at an average of 8.1. Acidification simply means that we have gone down 0.2 on the ph scale, not that the oceans have turned to acid. Ocean water also is a buffered solution. So long as salts continue to be fed into the oceans by river systems, the oceans will be fine in spite of increases of CO2.

In point of fact, algaes, diatoms, and planktons will quickly adapt and pull the CO2 out of the water to make their shells like they did millions of years ago when CO2 levels were in the 1000s ppm. Some of the thickest deposits of carbonates were made during times when CO2 levels were in the 1000s ppm.

We are nowhere near those levels. Even if we did reach them, it would only be a return to previous conditions on the earth in which life abounded and diversified more than now.

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