Global Forests Sequester One-third of Annual Fossil Fuel Emissions, Much More Than Previously Thought
Global forests have annually removed 2.4 billion tons of carbon (8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere, about one-third of annual fossil fuel emissions during 1990 to 2007. This forest carbon sink (the net gain of C by forests) is found in every continent on Earth. The size of the sink varies over time and by region. Understanding the location of the current sink, and the wide range of mechanisms responsible for it, is an important step towards understanding Earth's changing climate system. An international team of scientists from 14 institutes, led by two Forest Service scientists, estimated the global forest carbon sink based on millions of on-the-ground measurements in forests around the world. The study reveals the dominant role of tropical forests for the exchange of carbon between the land and atmosphere and illustrates the importance of reducing tropical deforestation to limit the buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The study also highlights the risk of passively relying on forests to continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere, for such carbon sequestration can be reversed by increased drought, wildfires, and forest degradation.
Forest Service Partners