Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cleaning The Atmosphere Of Carbon: African Forests Out Of Balance

Date:
March 2, 2009
Source:
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
Carbon held in African forests is on the rise, but there's no simple explanation. The two most likely explanations are that forests are responding to high atmospheric carbon dioxide or that they are recovering from a previous natural or human-induced disturbance.

Tropical forests hold more living biomass than any other terrestrial ecosystem. A new report in the journal Nature by Lewis et al. shows that not only do trees in intact African tropical forests hold a lot of carbon, they hold more carbon now than they did 40 years ago--a hopeful sign that tropical forests could help to mitigate global warming.

In a companion article, Helene Muller-Landau, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, says that understanding the causes of this African forest carbon sink and projecting its future is anything but straightforward.

Growing trees absorb carbon. Dead, decomposing trees release carbon. Researchers expect growth and death to approximately balance each other out in mature, undisturbed forests, and thus for total tree carbon stocks, the carbon held by the trees, to remain approximately constant. Yet Lewis and colleagues discovered that on average each hectare (100 x 100 meters, or 2.2 acres) of apparently mature, undisturbed African forest was increasing in tree carbon stocks by an amount equal to the weight of a small car each year. Previous studies have shown that Amazonian forests also take up carbon, although at somewhat lower rates.

"If you assume that these forests should be in equilibrium, then the best way to explain why trees are growing bigger is anthropogenic global change – the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could essentially be acting as fertilizer." says Muller-Landau, "But it's also possible that tropical forests are still growing back following past clearing or fire or other disturbance. Given increasing evidence that tropical forests have a long history of human occupation, recovery from past disturbance is almost certainly part of the reason these forests are taking up carbon today."

Muller-Landau, who directs a project to monitor carbon budgets in forest study sites worldwide as part of the Smithsonian's Center for Tropical Forest Science and the HSBC Climate Partnership, advises that this newfound sink shouldn't be taken for granted, or presumed to continue indefinitely. "While we still can't explain exactly what is behind this carbon sink, one thing we know for sure is that it can't be a sink forever. Trees and forests just can't keep getting bigger. Tropical forests are buying us a bit more time right now, but we can't count on them to continue to offset our carbon emissions in the future."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Cleaning The Atmosphere Of Carbon: African Forests Out Of Balance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219105322.htm>.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (2009, March 2). Cleaning The Atmosphere Of Carbon: African Forests Out Of Balance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219105322.htm
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "Cleaning The Atmosphere Of Carbon: African Forests Out Of Balance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090219105322.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
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