Emissions From Destruction of Tropical Forests Largely Underestimated

The Amazon rainforest has been destroyed over the years. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Previous evaluations on how much the world’s lost tropical forests emit carbon emissions have been under-reported, as it never took into account the longer-term effects of tree ruin.

The carbon impact from forests that were destroyed or degraded from 2000 to 2013 was re-evaluated in an international study, adding up to 121 million acres, roughly the size of Thailand. Those ‘intact forests’ that were destroyed release six times the amount of carbon than previously estimated when additional foreseen emissions are included.

What are intact forests? They are large areas of a continuous forest without intensive human activity, such as logging or agriculture. “Once you’ve caused the initial round of damage, you have committed to a lot of further emissions in the future once the forest has opened up,” explained Tom Evans, co-author of the study.

In 2018, tropical forests lost 12 million hectares of tree cover, which, according to forest monitoring service Global Forest Watch, is the fourth-largest annual loss since 2001. When trees are cut, burned, or rotting, they release all of their stored carbon dioxides into the atmosphere. Environmentalists say there are many benefits to restoring damaged forests and protecting existing ones, including protecting biodiversity, preventing floods, and limiting climate change. Read more…

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