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A Large and Persistent Carbon Sink in the World's Forests

Yude Pan, Richard A. Birdsey, Jingyun Fang, Richard Houghton, Pekka E. Kauppi, Werner A. Kurz, Oliver L. Phillips, Anatoly Shvidenko, Simon L. Lewis, Josep G. Canadell, Philippe Ciais, Robert B. Jackson, Stephen Pacala, A. David McGuire, Shilong Piao, Aapo Rautiainen, Stephen Sitch, Daniel Hayes.

Published Online July 14 2011
Vol. 333 no. 6045 pp. 988-993, DOI: 10.1126/science.1201609

Lead

The terrestrial carbon sink is large but its size and location remain uncertain. Using forest inventory data and long-term ecosystem carbon studies, a new study estimates a total forest sink of 2.4±0.4 Pg C yr-1 globally for 1990-2007, - equivalent to one third of current annual fossil fuel emissions.

Paper Abstract

The terrestrial carbon (C) sink has been large in recent decades, but its size and location remain uncertain. Using forest inventory data and long-term ecosystem C studies, we estimated a total forest sink of 2.4±0.4 Pg C yr-1 globally for 1990-2007.

We estimated a source of 1.3±0.7 Pg C yr-1 from tropical land-use change, consisting of a gross tropical deforestation emission of 2.9±0.5 Pg C yr-1 partially compensated by a C sink in tropical forest regrowth of 1.6±0.5 Pg C yr-1. Together, the fluxes comprise a net global forest sink of 1.1±0.8 Pg C yr-1, with tropical estimates having the largest uncertainties. This forest sink is equivalent in magnitude to the terrestrial sink deduced from fossil fuel emissions and constraints of ocean and atmospheric sinks.

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Illustrative Photos (available free if credited as specified)
Tropical Forest forest with dirt track  
Tropical Forest remove large quantities of atmospheric carbon dioxide (Borneo depicted).
Photo credit: H.-D. Viktor Boehm
(1600 x 1200 jpg 1.4 Mb)
Karri forest near Pemberton, WA.
Photo credit: Willem van Aken (CSIRO)
(945 x 945 jpg 871 kb)
plantations Forest plantation
Plantations of Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus nitens in Gippsland (Victoria, Australia). Photo credit: Michael Ryan
(1116 x 725 jpg 368 kb)
Forest plantation near Cobram, Victoria. 1989.
Photo credit: Willem van Aken (CSIRO)
(1850 x 1200 jpg 3.5 mb)
forest in Ecuador Mixed Beech forest
Ecuador forested landscape, from the Amazon to the Andes.
Photo credit: Abel Monteagudo
(2572 x 1872 jpg 1.74 mb)
Mixed Beech forest in the mountains of warm temperate region in China.
Photo credit: Zhehao Shen
(1220 x 936 jpg 592 kb)
deforestation fire in forest
Deforestation in the Amazon.
Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/luoman
(1188 x 800 jpg 1.2 mb)
Crown fire in lowland black spruce, northern Alberta, Canada.
Photo credit: NRCan-CFS
(4042 x 2719 jpg 3.1 mb)
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