About 30 years of data obtained from the study of over 300,000 trees from more than 500 tropical forest patches in South America and Central Africa were subject to new research led by scientists from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. The conclusions are breathtaking. Literally.
The forests are on their way to stop sequestering carbon dioxide because of the increasing temperatures. The tropical forests, due to their intact structure were the crucial global carbon sink. The research brings proof that this is not the case anymore.
Because of the growing levels of carbon dioxide, the color of the tropical rainforests, including the Amazon Rainforest and Congo Basin Rainforests, is darkening. The green color has gotten greener, and there are no tunes of darker green left. It means that the planet’s rainforests can’t keep up with our rhythm of pollution.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, the rainforests absorbed 46 billion metric tons of CO2. That is half of the global terrestrial carbon uptake and 17% of anthropogenic emissions. In the 2010s, the rainforest ability to sequester carbon dioxide dropped by one third: only 25 billion metric tons had been removed, or just 6% of anthropogenic sources.
Tropical Rainforests Will Soon Release Massive Carbon Dioxide Amounts
While global carbon dioxide emissions grew by 46%, the intact rainforests’ ability to sequester it dropped by 19%. The researchers noticed a 33% drop in the amount of carbon the remaining forests could absorb.
By the end of the 2020s, only 15.33 metric tons are expected to have been absorbed. Another decade later, by the mid-2030s, tropical forests are expected to release more carbon than they absorb.
Industrialization, modern transportation, fossil fuel consumption combined with increased temperatures, drought, forest fires, pests, and unnatural deforestation are on their way to destroy the planet’s natural capacity to keep a breathable atmosphere.
“After years of work deep in the Congo and Amazon rainforests we’ve found that one of the most worrying impacts of climate change has already begun,” said Simon Lewis, a professor of geography from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.