Washington, Feb 19 (ANI): A research has shown that tropical trees in undisturbed forest are absorbing nearly a fifth of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by burning fossil fuels in the world.
The researchers show that remaining tropical forests remove a massive 4.8 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere each year.
This includes a previously unknown carbon sink in Africa, mopping up 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 each year.
The 40-year study of African tropical forests, which constitute one third of the world's total tropical forests, shows that for at least the last few decades, each hectare of intact African forest has trapped an extra 0.6 tonnes of carbon per year.
The scientists then analyzed the new African data together with South American and Asian findings to assess the total sink in tropical forests.
Analysis of these 250,000 tree records reveals that, on average, remaining undisturbed forests are trapping carbon, showing that they are a globally significant carbon sink.
"We are receiving a free subsidy from nature," said Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds, and the lead author of the research paper.
"Tropical forest trees are absorbing about 18 percent of the CO2 added to the atmosphere each year from burning fossil fuels, substantially buffering the rate of climate change," he added.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that globally human activity emits 32 billion tonnes of CO2 each year, but only 15 billion tonnes actually stays in the atmosphere adding to climate change.
The new research shows exactly where some of the 'missing' 17 billion tonnes per year is going.
"It's well known that about half of the 'missing' carbon is being dissolved in to the oceans, and that the other half is going somewhere on land in vegetation and soils, but we were not sure precisely where. According to our study about half the total carbon 'land sink' is in tropical forest trees," explained Dr Lewis.
The reason why the trees are getting bigger and mopping up carbon is unclear. A leading suspect is the extra CO2 in the atmosphere itself, which may be acting like a fertilizer.
However, according to Dr Lewis, "Whatever the cause, we cannot rely on this sink forever. Even if we preserve all remaining tropical forest, these trees will not continue getting bigger indefinitely." (ANI)