Thursday, September 28, 2017
When the Carbon Sink Becomes a Carbon Bomb
One of the things we've counted on in wrestling with cutting greenhouse gas emissions are nature's carbon sinks. A carbon sink is a natural process that strips carbon out of the atmosphere. The biggest of them all are the world's oceans and seas. Another big one would be the world's forests, especially our rain forests. Or so we thought.
The oceans are becoming saturated and they're also warming, reducing their ability and capacity to remove and store our carbon waste. Fortunately we've always got those forests soaking up carbon for photosynthesis and providing precious oxygen. Or so we thought.
A report just published in the journal, Science, says around the world our forest stocks have become so degraded that they're now a net producer of CO2, generating more of the persistent greenhouse gas than all the traffic in the United States.
“This shows that we can’t just sit back. The forest is not doing what we thought it was doing,” said Alessandro Baccini, who is one of the leader authors of the research team from Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University. “As always, trees are removing carbon from the atmosphere, but the volume of the forest is no longer enough to compensate for the losses. The region is not a sink any more.”