Tropical forests matter to each and every one of us. They suck colossal quantities of carbon out of the atmosphere, providing a crucial brake on the rate of climate change. Yet, new research we have just published in Nature shows that intact tropical forests are removing far less carbon dioxide than they used to.
The change is staggering. Across the 1990s intact tropical forests – those unaffected by logging or fires – removed roughly 46 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This diminished to an estimated 25 billion tonnes in the 2010s. The lost sink capacity is 21 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to a decade of fossil fuel emissions from the UK, Germany, France and Canada combined.
How did we reach such an alarming conclusion, and how is it that nobody knew this before? The answer is that we – along with 181 other scientists from 36 countries – have spent years tracking individual trees deep in the world’s rainforests. MORE
Header image: Wading through swamps in Nouabalé Ndoki National Park. Credit: Aida Cuní Sanchez, Author provided.