Researchers surprised by rapid tropical forest regrowth

Rapid tropical forest regrowth compensates for the loss of carbon sink capacity through deforestation in Africa, South America and the Far East.

Researchers surprised by rapid tropical forest regrowth

Professor Pekka Kauppi and researcher Aapo Rautiainen from the Department of Environmental Sciences of the University of Helsinki were part of an international team of 18 researchers that evaluated the world’s forest development since 1990. The researchers noticed that the carbon sink created by forest regrowth more than cancels out the effects of deforestation on emissions. The results of the study were published in Science magazine.

According to the study, tropical forest growth has been surprisingly rapid in areas with no history of deforestation. Because of this, the world’s forests are still removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, even though land clearing and slash-burning, as well as rapidly and erratically expanding suburbs, are reducing the total forest area in Africa, South America and many areas of the Far East.

– However, fossil carbon emissions are increasing continuously and are seven times larger than the carbon sink created by the world’s forests, Pekka Kauppi points out.

– This global carbon sink is equivalent to the total fossil carbon emissions from the European Union. That said, the carbon sink created by tropical forests is hardly documented, because forest inventories are costly and difficult.

Kauppi believes that the carbon sink cannot be considered in terms of climate negotiations until more advanced forest measurement methods are adopted worldwide. According to Kauppi, this goal could be promoted through Finnish development co-operation.

The article “A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World’s Forests, 1990–2007” is available on the Science magazine website »»

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Text: Terttu Nurro
Photo: Dmitry Pichugin (123rf)
Translation: AAC Global
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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