1 Tahrcountry Musings: Tropical rainforests: New study reveals tropical rainforests absorb 20% of carbon emissions annually

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tropical rainforests: New study reveals tropical rainforests absorb 20% of carbon emissions annually

The latest issue of journal Nature has a nice paper on tropical rainforests and its utility in acting as carbon sink. S.L. Lewis et al reports that undisturbed tropical forests are absorbing nearly a fifth of carbon dioxide released annually by the burning of fossil fuels. According to Lewis this is akin to receiving a free subsidy from nature. The paper is the outcome of analysis of 40 years of data from rainforests in the Central African country of Gabon, data from African rainforests and previously published data from the Americas and Asia.

It has been estimated that tropical forests of Africa alone sequestered more than a billion metric tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide each year during the past four decades.

The calculation is that humans emit 32 billion tons of carbon each year in to the atmosphere. Tropical forests of the world sequester 8.5 billion tons of this carbon every year. 8.5 billion tons is dissolved in oceans. Soils and other types of vegetation absorb the balance. This leaves 15 billion of the 32 billion tons emitted by humans each year in the atmosphere.

The paper highlights the importance of rainforest conservation. This initiative should be a combined venture of the nations around the world. It has been suggested by many scientists that rich polluting countries should transfer a major chunk of resources to countries with tropical forests to reduce their deforestation rates. The deforestation is mainly in pursuance of the avowed policy of development. It is big logging companies that hog the major benefits

The end beneficiary of rainforest conservation is not the country with tropical forests alone. The benefits percolate to entire humanity. Global warming has given an added impetus to the urgent need.

Lewis the principal investigator is an ecologist at the University of Leeds in England.
The paper: S.L. Lewis et al. Increasing carbon storage in intact African tropical forests. NATURE| Vol 457| 19 February 2009

No comments: