Brazil’s rainforest carbon losses are much greater than suspected

According to the Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research deforestation in Brazil has led to “significantly more” carbon being lost than anyone assumed, proving that it simply isn’t good enough to make assumptions. We desperately need the facts.

The frightening facts about peripheral forest damage

The effects of deforestation and forest degradation have been seriously underestimated, simply because it was such a challenge to calculate biomass loss at the edges of the forests where CO2 emissions are highest.

The findings, reported in Nature Communications, reveal how forest fragmentation results in up to a fifth more carbon dioxide being emitted by the vegetation than anyone suspected. And it’s terrible news.

The scientists developed a new approach to integrate remote sensing results with forest and ecology modelling, first modelling the percentage loss of carbon in forest borders once the surrounding area had been after the deforested. Then the losses were compared to large areas of undamaged forest in the Amazon and the coastal Mata Atlântica.

Forest edges prone to more damage… and it’s cyclical

It appears that the local climate changes significantly at at the newly-created edges of the forest. The sun’s rays are more powerful, temperatures are higher and the damaged areas provide a target for strong winds. The stresses on trees in this peripheral area are considerable and, because larger specimens in particular die off as a re3sult, the stress on trees in peripheral areas increases even more. Stressed and damaged trees store less carbon that healthy trees in the forest centre, and the cycle of destruction continues.

While the news is wholly bad in this case, it’s a lot better than not having a clear picture of what’s actually happening. In rainforest conservation, as in the rest of life, knowledge really is power.


Posted by the Rainforest Foundation. Image from NASA’s Earth Observatory via Flickr

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