London, July 30 (ANI): A new study has suggested that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation in the Amazon are increasing as loggers and land developers move deeper into dense regions of the forest.
According to a report in Nature News, researchers have analyzed Brazilian deforestation data from 2001-2007 in an effort to quantify emissions as deforestation moves from the forest outskirts to the interior, where more carbon is bound up in plants and soil.
Areas that are not formally protected, and thus are most likely to be cleared in the future, contain roughly 25 percent more carbon than areas cleared in 2001, according to the study.
"The arch of deforestation started out in the southeast, where forests contain less biomass," said co-author Greg Asner, a scientist with the Carnegie Institution of Science in Stanford, California. "Now people are moving north and west into the higher biomass forests," he added.
The results underscore the danger posed by deforestation, which is responsible for upward of 20 percent of global carbon emissions.
Asner said the study serves as a reminder that monitoring forest cover will not be enough in the future. "We have to monitor biomass," he said.
Driven in large part by agriculture, deforestation in the Amazon averaged about 1.6 million hectares annually from 2001 to 2007, compared to nearly 1.9 million hectares in the 1990s, according to Brazilian government data cited in the paper.
The analysis suggests that emissions would rise in the future even if forest clearing were to continue at current rates.
According to Asner, the new study is an extension of work done by Sassan Saatchi at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and colleagues, who in 2007 produced the most comprehensive biomass maps of the Amazon.
"We were surprised that nobody had done this before, to be honest," said Asner.
Ruth DeFries, a deforestation expert at Columbia University in New York, said that the results are solid but hardly surprising, given what scientists know about both forest carbon and the drivers of deforestation.
"It makes perfect sense. It's a combination of different data sets that became available," she said.
Saatchi said that earlier biomass maps had only coarse resolution and were often based on models.
His team combed through available field data at various plots distributed throughout the Amazon and overlaid radar and spectral data from US and Japanese satellites.
They then extrapolated to build a biomass map of the Amazon basin circa 2000.
"It basically provided a benchmark map of the biomass carbon in the Amazon," Saatchi said. (ANI)