Tropical forests aren't the carbon sponges they once were. In a role reversal, today's jungles lose more carbon to the atmosphere each year than they soak up, according to a study published Thursday in Science. The carbon released by these forested areas amounts to 425 million metric tons per year, which is more than all the emissions from U.S. cars and trucks combined. But, the researchers said there is still time to reverse these trends.
LIMA – In 2015, satellite images detected a fresh clearing of rain forest in an indigenous reserve deep in the Amazon. Within months, authorities in Peru had evicted the wildcat miners driving the deforestation, a rare victory in a region where a gold rush has laid waste to large swaths of pristine forest. The rapid response was possible thanks to better use of satellite technology that now allows deforestation to be tracked in near real-time, giving governments "unprecedented" opportunities to take action, said Matt Finer, the lead author of a paper on the trend in the latest issue of Science. Instead of years passing before learning about a new deforestation hot-spot, authorities can track it in weeks or months, said Finer. "Most tropical countries now cannot say, 'well we didn't have the information, or we didn't have the information on time,'" said Finer, a research specialist at the organization Amazon Conservation, which spotted the 2015 clearing in Peru's Amarakaeri Communal Reserve.
Tropical forests are critically important for human livelihoods, climate stability, and biodiversity conservation but remain threatened (1). Recent years have seen major strides in documenting historical and annual tropical forest loss with satellites (2). Now, a convergence of satellite technologies and analytical capabilities makes it increasingly possible to monitor deforestation in near real time, on the scale of days, weeks, or months, rather than years (3, 4). This advance creates greater potential for near–real-time action as well and could play a key role in achieving local, national, and international forest, biodiversity, and climate policy goals, as there is a global imperative to address deforestation. Challenges remain, however, to attaining effective policy action based on the new technology.
Tropical forests have been so damaged by humans that they now pollute the planet more than they protect it. The planet's forests and oceans are vital'carbon sinks' which prevent polluting gases reaching our atmosphere. The massive Amazon forest alone sucks up 600 million tons of carbon emissions a year. But scientists now say so many trees have been lost from tropical forests that they now produce more carbon than they absorb. Tropical forests have been so damaged by humans that they now pollute the planet more than they protect it.
World Space Week begins today, Thursday 4 October – a global series of global events hosted by the United Nations. This year's theme: 'Space unites the world'. Three new reports published today by the UK Space Agency emphasise how the potential of the space industry lies in not just in gazing out from Earth to the cosmos, but also in looking back to Earth from orbit in order to solve terrestrial problems. The reports reveal how the industry can help to save lives and livelihoods from natural disasters, address the major challenges confronting the agriculture sector, and deliver better management of forests to improve production and protect nature on a global scale. The first document, Space for Disaster Resilience in Developing Countries, explains how the space sector is well placed to contribute new types of information.