Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Old Growth Forest Must No Longer Be Ignored In Carbon Balances

Date:
September 25, 2008
Source:
CNRS
Summary:
Ancient forests, which accumulate large quantities of carbon over the centuries, should be taken into account in global carbon balance assessments. However, such old growth forests were not included in the Kyoto protocol.

Ancient forests, which accumulate large quantities of carbon over the centuries, should be taken into account in global carbon balance assessments. However, such old growth forests were not included in the Kyoto protocol.
Credit: iStockphoto

An international study involving a team from LSCE (CNRS-CEA-UVSQ) has revealed that ancient forests, which accumulate large quantities of carbon over the centuries, should be taken into account in global carbon balance assessments. However, such old growth forests were not included in the Kyoto protocol.

In the carbon cycle, forests help to slow down the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide by absorbing this gas, thereby mitigating climate change. Specifically, forests use CO2 to synthesise the organic molecules that are stored in trees, and thereafter in organic soil matter and dead leaves, which decompose slowly.

The ability of forests to fix carbon dioxide depends on the balance between the amounts removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and those released as a result of plant respiration.

In the late 1960's, an American scientist named Eugene Odum put forward the hypothesis that the carbon dioxide fixing and release rates in old growth forests, (i.e. woodland more than 150 years old) reached an equilibrium, rendering them neutral from a carbon balance perspective. Although little empirical evidence was produced in support of this hypothesis, it was nonetheless accepted by the vast majority of ecologists and "non-ecologists" alike. As a result, old growth forests were disregarded in the Kyoto protocol.

An international research team that includeds scientists from CEA's Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science (LSCE - Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement) has compiled a new database using measurements made by the "CarboEurope" and "AmeriFlux" observatory networks, with the aim of accurately assessing Odum's hypothesis. "Old growth forests may actually still be accumulating carbon, in defiance of Odum's equilibrium hypothesis, explains Philippe Ciais, Deputy Director of LSCE, and co-author of the study. More than 30% of the planet's total forested area is unmanaged primary forest, half of which is located in temperate regions in the northern hemisphere. The database established for this study reveals that these ancient forests fix between 0.8 and 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon each year, and that 15% of the total forest area that has until now been totally ignored in carbon balances is in fact responsible for at least 10% of all carbon sinking activity."

The study finds that ancient forests accumulate large quantities of carbon over the centuries, which might be released in case of accidental disturbance (e.g. fire, insects, disease, storms, extreme droughts, etc.). In conclusion, carbon balance assessments should take these old growth forests into account.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Luyssaert et al. Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks. Nature, 2008; 455 (7210): 213 DOI: 10.1038/nature07276

Cite This Page:

CNRS. "Old Growth Forest Must No Longer Be Ignored In Carbon Balances." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922175137.htm>.
CNRS. (2008, September 25). Old Growth Forest Must No Longer Be Ignored In Carbon Balances. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922175137.htm
CNRS. "Old Growth Forest Must No Longer Be Ignored In Carbon Balances." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080922175137.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins