Since the 1980s carbon uptake from mature Amazon forests has matched the combined carbon emissions from deforestation and fossil fuels across all nine Amazon nations, new research from the University of Leeds suggests.
Leeds University’s School of Geography found that since 1980 about 430 million tonnes of carbon has been absorbed by pristine Amazon rainforest each year – almost four times the UK emissions for 2016.
Study authors said their findings reveal the “sheer scale” of the ecosystem service Amazonian forests are providing.
“For the nations of the Amazon basin as a whole this means that since 1980 the carbon uptake has matched the entire combined emissions from deforestation and fossil fuels,” said lead author Professor Oliver Phillips.
The Amazon rainforest’s carbon sink, also known as carbon sequestration, is the process by which the forest removes and stores carbon from the atmosphere.
In the study, published in the journal Carbon Balance and Management, researchers compared estimates of the Amazon rainforest carbon sink to fossil fuel emissions data from the nine countries where mature Amazon forests are found – Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
They found in almost every Amazon nation the average annual carbon uptake into mature forests has been at least twice the size of the nation’s fossil fuels emissions.
Co -author Dr Roel Brienen said: “This reveals the sheer scale of the ecosystem service the Amazon forests are providing.
“We’ve known that the Amazon rainforest forest provides a ‘carbon sink’ but until now no one had looked at those absorption figures in the context of national boundaries. We found that in nearly every nation carbon uptake has outstripped emissions from fossil fuels.”