In DepthClimate Change

Tropical forests store carbon despite warming

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Science  22 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6493, pp. 813
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6493.813

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Summary

Tropical forests have been one of Earth's best defenses against rising carbon dioxide levels. The trees suck carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, and researchers estimate that, despite ongoing deforestation, they now store as much carbon as humanity has emitted over the past 25 years by burning coal, oil, and natural gas. But scientists have worried this ability will diminish and ultimately reverse with continued global warming. Now, researchers report that some tropical forests, will—if left intact—continue to sequester large amounts of carbon even as global temperatures rise. But only up to a point. If warming reaches 2°C above preindustrial levels, the study finds that huge swaths of the world's tropical forests will become so hot that they will begin to lose more carbon than they accumulate.

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