Forests remove 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon from air

The volume of the greenhouse gas mopped up by all categories of forests has been quantified for the first time by scientists.

"What this research tells us is that forests play a much larger role as carbon sinks as a result of tree growth and forest expansion," says Pep Canadel from the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) who co-authored the study.

Conversely, deforestation is known to emit 2.9 billion tonnes of carbon per year, which had not been known in the past because of lack of data, adds Canadel, also executive director of Global Carbon Project, reports the journal Science.

He said the research team combined data from forest inventories, models and satellites to construct a profile of forests as major regulators of atmospheric CO2.

Total emissions from fossil fuels are currently above eight billion tonnes of carbon per year, according to a CSIRO statement.

Canadel said emissions from deforestation are much larger than previously thought, suggesting that the potential benefits of avoiding deforestation are much larger than previously appreciated.

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