Tropical forests help regulate global climate, and the clearing of these forests is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. With the foundation's support, researchers at the University of Maryland have published a new analysis in the July issue of Environmental Research Letters that, for the first time, provides a clear picture of forest carbon losses throughout the tropics.
The researchers used satellite imagery to map carbon storage loss in natural and managed forests (e.g., plantations). Among the key findings in their study, aboveground carbon loss in natural and managed tropical forests from 2000 to 2012:
- 43% of total carbon storage loss, and 54% of natural forest carbon-storage loss, were in Latin America, with Brazil experiencing the greatest loss in both categories.
- The loss of carbon storage in tropical forests accounted for 11% of total global CO2 emissions in 2012.
- However, as fossil fuel consumption increases and the extent of natural tropical forests declines, forest carbon storage loss is likely to make up a smaller proportion of global carbon emissions.