Determine which forest types can store the most carbon and under what conditions

Species diversity allows significant carbon storage only in tropical and tropical rain forests, such as the northern Chilean Patagonia jungle shown here. Credit: UNIGE / Madrigal-Gonzalez

An international team led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has studied which forest types are, in terms of biodiversity, most effective at storing carbon. Inventory data from natural forests on five continents show that species diversity is optimal for tropical and tropical rain forests, and conversely, in forests located in cold or dry regions, it is abundance rather than diversity of trees that favors the recovery of carbon dioxide.2. Study results published in Nature Communications, Of value in identifying natural strategies to combat climate change.

Global warming is stressing forests through higher average annual temperatures, longer-lasting droughts, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. At the same time, the forests – and the wood they produce – can be trapped and stored Dioxide (CO2), So it plays a critical role in mitigation . Trees and forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into carbon during photosynthesis, and then store it in the form of wood and plants, a process referred to as carbon sequestration. However, not all forests have the same carbon capture and storage capacity.

Reverse assumptions

In recent decades, researchers have suggested this It allows for more dense stacking and appropriate division that enhances the abundance of trees within the forest and that this abundance increases the carbon storage capacity of the forest, but another hypothesis suggests that it is not diversity that allows for tree abundance but the availability of an energy substrate. Areas with higher energy content allow more trees to thrive per unit area and thus increase carbon recovery. While these two hypotheses question On the relationship between diversity and abundance, knowing the answer could pragmatically direct the battle against carbon dioxide2 Emissions.

An international team around Jaime Madrigal-Gonzalez, scientific collaborator at the Institute of Environmental Sciences of the UNIGE School of Science, investigated which of these hypotheses is most likely and under which climatic conditions one is more likely than the other. The question was addressed using inventory data from natural forests from the five continents.

Forests of the Five Continents

“More species may not always be what is needed to achieve greater carbon storage in forests,” says Dr. Madrigal Gonzalez. Instead, this relationship appears to prevail only in the most productive forest regions on the planet that are mainly confined to tropical and tropical rain forests, and some temperate forests – in areas experiencing human-induced deforestation. Fires have destroyed pristine environments in recent times. On the contrary, in forests located in the cooler and drier regions on earth, abundance, boosted by productivity, appears to determine diversity. Here, any increase in the number of species will not necessarily lead to more trees and thus will not have a significant contribution to carbon storage.

The results of these studies are of great practical relevance as they will help decision-makers to successfully define climate change mitigation strategies based on nature, use of forests and carbon sequestration to reach the climate targets set in the Paris Agreement. “An increase in climate stress in the most productive forests on the planet could reduce or even collapse a role Against climate change, “says Professor Marcus Stoffel, Professor at the Institute for Environmental Sciences at UNIGE.

The largest trees capture the most carbon: The largest trees capture carbon storage in forests

more information:

Jaime Madrigal-Gonzalez et al. Climate reflects the trend in the relationship of affluence and abundance across the world’s major forest biomes, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-19460-y

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