Tropical Forests’ Diminishing Capacity to Absorb Carbon

A study recently published in the journal Nature reported that the capacity of the tropical forests to absorb carbon is diminishing.

The Study’s Findings

The study published in the journal Nature reported that the capacity of the tropical forests to act as carbon sink has been diminishing over the years. The forests are becoming ‘carbon saturated’. While these forests took in nearly 17% of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in 1990s, they took in only 6% by 2010s.

Trees as Carbon Sinks

Trees act as carbon sink by taking in more carbon in the form of carbon dioxide than they give off into the atmosphere. The transformation of atmospheric carbon dioxide into complex sugars through photosynthesis and storage through tree growth are key to this role. However, when a tree dies, carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

Differences between Amazonian and African Forests

The study looked at tropical forests in Africa and South America. It found that the carbon saturation is occurring in both these regions, but at different rates. It found that the biomass in African tropical forests was stable for more years than in the Amazonian forests. The scientists attribute this to slower warming rate in Africa (fewer droughts and lower air temperatures due to higher elevation of the African forests).

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