Scientists Find that Biodiversity in Tropical Forests Does not Guarantee Carbon Storage

Tropical forests play a key role in the global carbon cycle, harbouring at least half of all species on the planet as well as storing 250 billion tonnes of carbon. This led a team of scientists from 22 countries to examine both the tree diversity and amount of carbon stored in 360 locations across the lowland rainforests of Africa, Asia and the Amazon to determine the exact change and sensitivity of forests to the ongoing challenges of global climate change. The results, published in the journal ‘Scientific Reports’, interestingly reveal that biodiversity in tropical forests does not guarantee more carbon overall. ‘In many ecosystems, sites with more species tend to lock up more carbon. But this doesn't work for tropical forests. Most tropical forests already have many species, and it may be that beyond a certain point adding even more species makes no difference to carbon stocks,’ highlighted co-author, Dr Joey Talbot, from the University of Leeds. In total 200,000 trees were measured in the study using the diameter and identity of every tree within a given hectare (2.5 acres). African tropical forests stored high levels of carbon, but are the least diverse and the Amazon, which has a great diversity of tree species, tends to store less carbon per hectare than forests in Africa and Asia.

Neil Palmer/CIAT/CIFOR


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