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climate change

Draining off carbon dioxide

A regenerating forest in the midst of a manioc-growing area in Tefé, Amazonas

Frans Bongers A regenerating forest in the midst of a manioc-growing area in Tefé, AmazonasFrans Bongers

Protecting regenerating forests may be an efficient way of fighting climate change. Half of the world’s forests are recovering, and this type of plant life grows faster and sequesters more carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere than intact forests, which have never been converted into pastureland or farmland. This was the conclusion reached by an international study undertaken by teams from the federal universities of Pernambuco (UFPE) and Southern Bahia (UFSB); the State University of Montes Claros (Unimontes), in Minas Gerais; the Institute for Research on the Amazon (INPA); and the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture of the University of São Paulo (Esalq-USP). The researchers quantified the recovery ability of 1,500 forest plots spread across eight Latin American countries. They found that regenerating – or secondary – forests recover faster in regions of higher rainfall rather than where soil is more fertile, as previously thought (Nature, February 3, 2016). According to the authors, these forests recovered 122 metric tons of biomass per hectare over a 20-year period, corresponding to an uptake of 3.05 metric tons of carbon dioxide per hectare per year – almost eleven times the uptake rate for old-growth forests. Based on these data, the researchers created a map illustrating the biomass recovery potential for tropical forests. The map is expected to be used to help identify and preserve areas where resilience is low and restoration more challenging.