First Ever Amazonian Carbon Recovery Mapping Published

The Amazon is the world’s biggest forest, and it holds around a third of the carbon stored in all the planet’s  forests. Logging releases a great deal of stored carbon into the atmosphere, to be recovered again by by surviving trees and new growth.

Now the very first maps revealing post-commercial logging carbon recovery in the Amazon’s rainforests have been published in the journal eLife. And it looks like trees that survive logging might be better at storing carbon than young trees that fill the spaces left behind. This is the first such study to be carried out Amazon-wide.

Predicting post-logging carbon sequestration levels across the Amazon

A team from the Tropical Managed Forest Observatory have modelled the way different forest environments impact carbon changes in surviving trees and new trees grown post-logging, examining data from 133 permanent forest plots in 13 experimentally disturbed sites, looking at regional differences in climate, soils, and the surface biomass. These were linked with changes in carbon stocks caused by both surviving and new trees in an attempt to predict carbon recovery potential right across the Amazon.

The Guiana Shield wins the carbon stakes

The results reveal carbon recovery is highest in the Guiana Shield, an area of north east South America, and the western Amazonian forests, where surviving trees have sucked up a lot more carbon than they have in the south of the region. The Guiana Shield forests are denser, living off nutrient-poor soils, but in the south  high seasonal water stress is the main barrier to carbon recovery. As a general rule stress-tolerant trees are not as good at sucking up carbon, which could explain the difference.

We can’t just rely on new growth to suck up carbon

The results of the research hint that it’s unwise to rely on new growth to store carbon in forests disturbed by logging, since newer growth is very vulnerable to water stress. The trees that survive logging seem to be a better bet, which delivers clues about how to predict a forest’s responses to carbon loss from climate change.

‘Green Inferno’ – Helping or hindering rainforest conservation?

The movie The Green Inferno was made in 2013. It’s a US cannibal adventure horror film directed by Eli Roth, best known for the grisly horrors, Hostel parts 1 and 2, and it’s set in the Amazon.

Inspired by classic 1970s and early ’80s Italian cannibal movies, including the legendary Cannibal Holocaust, it’s about a bunch of young idealists determined to do their bit to help conserve the Amazon rainforest. But, as you’d expect, things soon go horribly wrong when their light aircraft crashes into the jungle and they’re captured by a tribe of cannibals.

All good fun, you might think. But is it really?

The film has been widely criticised by organisations dedicated to conserving rainforests, including Survival International, which supports the well-being and rights of indigenous people.

Why the fuss? Many feel the film demonises indigenous people and labels them as uncivilised, when in fact they are – in many ways – a whole lot more civilised than western cultures. They do not, after all, wreck the forests they depends on. It’s usually ‘us’ westerners who do that, large corporations without a conscience and profit-focused short-term thinkers.

What does the film maker himself say?

Eli Roth himself has dismissed concerns that a mere movie could hurt indigenous people to the extent that the forests they live in come under even more threat than they are already. But it’s clearly a complex argument.

On one hand the movie is clearly a work of fiction, probably involving a good deal of tongue in cheek. It isn’t a serious film, it’s meant to be fun. On the other hand some feel the plight of the planet’s rainforests is so acute that anything that sheds a negative light on its worth and value – including that of the people who live there – could be seen as unhelpful.

While The Green Inferno premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, it was unexpectedly removed from Universal Studios’ release list during 2014. But it looks like it’ll be in a cinema near you some time in autumn 2015, potentially on 25th September.

We’d love to know what you think

Do you feel the movie might turn people away from rainforest conservation by portraying indigenous tribes as violent, uncivilised and dangerous? Would you give movie-goers more credit, believing they’ll know it’s all fantasy and act accordingly? Or do you think the subject of deforestation is far too serious to mess with? Feel free to leave a comment.