Research Article

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

Science  19 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 988-993
DOI: 10.1126/science.1201609

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Abstract

The terrestrial carbon sink has been large in recent decades, but its size and location remain uncertain. Using forest inventory data and long-term ecosystem carbon studies, we estimate a total forest sink of 2.4 ± 0.4 petagrams of carbon per year (Pg C year–1) globally for 1990 to 2007. We also estimate a source of 1.3 ± 0.7 Pg C year–1 from tropical land-use change, consisting of a gross tropical deforestation emission of 2.9 ± 0.5 Pg C year–1 partially compensated by a carbon sink in tropical forest regrowth of 1.6 ± 0.5 Pg C year–1. Together, the fluxes comprise a net global forest sink of 1.1 ± 0.8 Pg C year–1, with tropical estimates having the largest uncertainties. Our total forest sink estimate is equivalent in magnitude to the terrestrial sink deduced from fossil fuel emissions and land-use change sources minus ocean and atmospheric sinks.

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