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Forests absorb twice as much CO2 as they emit per year

The world is improving its knowledge of the importance of forests in the global fight against climate change.

A new study published in the scientific journalNature Climate Change eavailable on Global Forest Watch concluded that the world's forests have sequestered about twice as much carbon dioxide as they emitted between 2001 e 2019. In other words, forests provide a “carbon sink” with a net absorption of 7,6 billion tons of CO2 per year, 1,5 more carbon than the United States, second largest emitter in the world, issue annually.

Forests: sink or carbon sources?

Forests absorb twice as much CO2 as they emit per year

Unlike other sectors, where carbon takes a one-way trip to the atmosphere, forests function as a two-way street, absorbing carbon as they grow or maintain, and dropping when degraded or deforested.

Before this study, Scientists estimated these “carbon fluxes” from data reported by countries, creating a distorted picture of the role of forests. With the new data, that combine field measurements with satellite observations, we can now quantify carbon fluxes with consistency in an area, from small local forests to entire continents.

Using this granular information, we found that the world's forests emit on average 8,1 billions of tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere every year due to deforestation and degradation, and absorb 16 billion tons of CO2 per year.

Forests can act as carbon sources or sinks

Forests absorb twice as much CO2 as they emit per year

Only a large rainforest remains a carbon sink

Tropical forests are by far the most important ecosystems for mitigating climate change. collectively, they sequester more carbon from the atmosphere than temperate or boreal forests, but they are facing increasing deforestation due to agricultural expansion in the world. The three largest rainforests are located in the Amazon, Congo River Basin and Southeast Asia.

We last 20 years old, Southeast Asian forests have turned into a net carbon source due to deforestation for plantations, uncontrolled fires and peat soil drainage.

The Amazon River Basin, comprising nine countries in South America, remains anet carbon sink, but it is close to becoming a source of net emissions if deforestation continues at the same rates. The Amazon River basin has been facing increased deforestation in thelast four years due to the opening of areas for pastures and degradation by fire.

Of the three great rainforests, only in Congo is there enough standing forest to remain a major carbon sink. Congo rainforest kidnaps 600 million tons more CO2 per year than it emits, the equivalent of one-third of the entire US transport emissions.

Protecting forest remnants in the three regions is critical to mitigating climate change.

Forests absorb twice as much CO2 as they emit per year

Protected areas help conserve forest carbon sinks

The precarious state of the Amazon River basin's role as a carbon sink demonstrates the need to protect the remaining forests in the region and in the world.Protected areas and indigenous lands are some of the most valuable tools for climate action, combined with command and control policies for deforestation.

The new map reveals that 27% of the planet's forest cover that acts as a net carbon sink is in protected areas. Observations from individual areas show how effective these areas can be in keeping CO2 in forests.

For example, in Brazil there is a clear contrast between emissions from the Menkragnotí Indigenous Land and the surrounding unprotected areas. Trees in the protected area continue to absorb approximately 10 million tons of CO2 more than they emit per year – the equivalent of emissions from 2 millions of cars. The area around the indigenous land, Nonetheless, became a source of emissions through the opening of areas for mining, livestock and soybean planting.

Recognize Indigenous Lands and Protected Areas, and ensure law enforcement in these lands., isrecognized strategy in protecting the standing forest and the carbon stored in these forests.

Forestry carbon flow varies with forest management practices

In no sector is the two-dimensional nature of forest carbon flux as apparent as in managed forests., which are cut and replanted to produce wood and are mainly concentrated in the United States, Canada, China, Europe and Russia. In these forest management areas, some portions of trees are harvested at planned intervals, resulting in carbon emissions, while others are left to grow, absorbing carbon.

At the end, what defines whether these forests will be a carbon source or sink is how they are managed – how long between each harvest cycle, how much of the forest is cut, the age of the trees and the total area to be calculated.

Looking closely at the individual areas recently harvested, we can see the increase in emissions from the abrupt reduction of trees. But when evaluating the landscape in which these crops are inserted, it is possible to see that forestry also absorbs carbon from previously harvested areas. When analyzing the whole, a well-managed forest proves to be a carbon sink.

Harvesting wood from primary forests, Nonetheless, still represents a concern, for both climate and biodiversity. Unlike secondary or planted forests, like eucalyptus and pine, spoon ofold forests releases the CO2 that took centuries to accumulate into the atmosphere. once lost, this carbon is irrecoverable in our lifetime.

Protecting the standing forest is critical for climate mitigation

In general, The study shows that preserving existing standing forests is our best hope for keeping vast amounts of carbon in the ground and continuing to absorb carbon.. If this absorption stops, the effects of climate change could be even worse.

In addition to showing that planting our trees (the right way Wherelet them grow naturally plays a vital role in mitigating climate change (helping communities adapt), the study indicates that the forests that emerged in the last 19 years represent less than 5% of existing forest carbon sinks.

While it is important to allow these young forests to grow and consolidate, protecting old-growth forests and mature secondary forests is the most important thing to combat climate change today..

With these new maps, we can identify in unprecedented detail the forests that are capturing or emitting more carbon. These maps can also be improved when better data emerges.. This puts us one step further in monitoring progress in reducing emissions from deforestation and identifying which forests are being successfully managed – and which ones need more protection..

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