A new study led by NASA and the University of Leeds has confirmed that natural forests in the Amazon remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit. This finding resolves a long-standing debate about a key component of the overall carbon balance of the Amazon basin.
The Amazon’s carbon balance is a matter of life and death: living trees take carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow, and dead trees put the greenhouse gas back into the air as they decompose.
The new study, published today in Nature Communications, is the first to measure tree deaths caused by natural processes throughout the Amazon forest, even in remote areas where no data have been collected at ground level.
Fernando Espírito-Santo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), California, and Emanuel Gloor created new techniques to analyze satellite, LIDAR data and a 20-year set of measurements collected by hundreds of scientists in the RAINFOR network, led by Professor Oliver Phillips at Leeds.