Rainforests absorb less CO2 - bioscientist warns against an acceleration of climate change

Tropical forests provide medicine, food, shelter and water for people and currently play a major role as a carbon sink by removing anthropogenic carbon emissions from the atmosphere and storing it in their biomass . Rainforests absorbed about 15% of all human-caused CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2007. However, according to the findings of an international research team, this sink capacity is slowly declining. According to their findings, rainforests store significantly less CO2 than in the 1990s.

The rainforest suffers from climate change.

The rain forest in the Amazon. (Bild: AmazonFACE, João Marcos Rosa).

For the study, researchers from an international team led by Wannes Hubau of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, collected data over several decades in undisturbed tropical rainforests in Africa and the Amazon region, and have now published the results in a recent article in the scientific journal Nature. They found that the rate at which the forests have absorbed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has decreased significantly since 1990.

"It is assumed that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has led to increased growth and thus, increased biomass storage. This is also known as the "CO2 fertilization effect"," writes Anja Rammig, Professor for Land Surface-Atmosphere Interactions at the TUM School of Life Sciences of Technical University of Munich, in a commentary on the study from Hubau et al. in Nature. "This also reduces the ability of forests to mitigate climate change. The consequence could be an acceleration of climate change," warns Rammig in her commentary.

"The results of this study show that we need to act faster," demands Prof. Rammig. In addition to strong protection of the intact tropical forest, an even faster reduction of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions than envisaged in the Paris Climate Convention is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change, says Rammig.

Link to the Nature article (Autoren: Hubau et al.)

Comment on the Nature article by Prof. Rammig

Further interview on rainforest and climate change with Prof. Rammig in the journal Nature

Susanne Neumann
Press an Public Relations WZW
e-mail: susanne.neumann[at]wzw.tum.de
phone: 08161.71.3207

Scientific Contact:
Prof. Anja Rammig
Professur Land Surface-Atmosphere Interactions
e-mail: anja.rammig[at]tum.de