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 September 18, 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 September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

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
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
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