Tropical forests “absorb 20% of CO2”

Trees in tropical forests have grown larger over the past four decades and now absorb 20% of fossil-fuel emissions from the earth’s atmosphere, according to British scientists cited by Reuters. The finding, the researchers said, highlights the need to preserve threatened forests.


The research team, led by Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds, said they do not know precisely why the trees are getting bigger and mopping up more carbon. They suspect, however, that extra carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere may be acting like a fertiliser.


Tropical forests now make up about half the world’s land carbon sink. The forests remove 4.8 billion tonnes of emissions each year, the study found. Based on “realistic prices for a ton of carbon”, the removal of so much CO2 should be valued at around US$19 billion, according to Lee White, Gabon’s chief climate-change scientist, who co-led the research.


In their study, published in the journal Nature, the scientists analysed data collected from nearly 250,000 tropical trees over the past 40 years.


Knowing what happens to the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere will help researchers better understand future climate change, Lewis noted.


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