Can tropical forests protect us against climate change?

While tropical forests remain one of the world’s most important weapons in the fight against climate change, their ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere is decreasing, shows a new study published today in the journal Nature.

Researchers from almost 100 academic institutions studied the Amazon and the Congo Basin forests for three decades, observing a sharp decline in their carbon sink that started around 20 years ago. While intact tropical forests removed 17 percent of human-made carbon dioxide emissions in the 1990s, this figure was reduced to 9 percent in the 2000s, and just 6 percent in the 2010s.

The main reason behind this phenomenon is dying trees, according to the scientists. While extra carbon dioxide from man-made emissions boosts tree growth, this effect is being increasingly countered by negative climate change effects such as higher temperatures and droughts.

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