Loss of Tropical Biomass Could Lead to Increased Carbon Emissions
A decrease in tropical forest biomass stemming from changes in climate may lead to increased carbon emissions that could accelerate global warming, according to a new study co-authored by YSE postdoctoral associate Maria del Rosario Uribe and Paulo Brando, associate professor of ecosystem carbon capture. Tropical ecosystems store over half of the world’s above-ground carbon in their biomass, which includes vines, trunks, and leaves. A decrease in biomass reduces the capacity of these ecosystems to capture and store carbon. The research team said the decrease likely stems from prolonged and intense dry periods in the forests from climate change. The researchers found that if greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are higher, losses of stored carbon could nearly double by 2100. Uribe says she is hoping this data will strengthen the case for current climate policy initiatives, such as the Paris Climate Agreement that seek to limit global warming to no higher than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels and preserve tropical forests. Brando notes that the findings can be looked at as “glass half full or a glass half empty.” The losses due to climate change are not massive but are concentrated in a key specific region of the Southeastern Amazon.