According to a recent study that was published in Nature on Wednesday, regenerated forests in the Amazon, Central Africa, and Borneo have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from the region’s deforestation by about a quarter over the course of more than three decades.
The study’s principal author, Dr. Viola Heinrich, who obtained her doctorate from the University of Bristol School of Geographical Science and is currently a research associate at the University of Exeter, said in a University of Bristol press release that the research offers the first pan-tropical estimates of aboveground carbon absorption in tropical forests recovering from degradation and deforestation. We highlight the need for sustainably managed forest regions that are resilient to human disturbances, even while safeguarding old-growth tropical forests remains the top priority.
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Tropical rainforests are a key collaborator in attempts to ameliorate the climate problem because of their capacity to store carbon. Yet, they also require humans to be excellent partners in order for this to happen. That is not the situation at the moment, however, as deforestation has made Southeast Asian forests into net carbon emitters and brought the Amazon rainforest to a hazardous tipping point. The only reliable carbon sink left is the Congo in Central Africa.
The latest study examined how recovering secondary or degraded forests can benefit both the forests themselves and attempts to reduce carbon emissions.
According to Carbon Brief, secondary forests are established in previously cleared regions, whereas degraded forests are those that have lost some of their tree covers as a result of human activity. They now account for about 10% of the tropical forest area.
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Using two satellite datasets—the tropical moist forest dataset to monitor degradation from 1984 to 2018 and an aboveground biomass dataset to calculate sequestration—the researchers monitored the growth and carbon sequestration of these regenerating forests. They discovered that during the study period, regenerating forests stored at least 107 million tonnes of carbon annually, or 26% of the carbon that was lost due to deforestation in the three regions during the same time period.
Then, they ran simulations to estimate how much carbon these woods could store by 2030, assuming they were protected through the end of the decade. They discovered that they could store 53 million tonnes of carbon annually. Yet, this depends on safeguards against both direct human activities like logging and more severe climate-driven weather phenomena like drought or wildfires.
This is a significant problem in the Amazon, where massive fires have an impact on vegetation. According to study co-author and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Ricardo Dalagnol of the University of California, Los Angeles, they lose carbon and the capacity to restore it.
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Preserving these regenerating woods can help the local ecosystems and populations in addition to storing carbon. For instance, in Borneo, secondary forests can increase biodiversity while damaged woods can help with access to clean air and water. The study authors, therefore, urged leaders in tropical nations and globally to make an effort to safeguard recovering forests.