Young forests are the best carbon sinks

Younger forests, rather than older established forested areas, are the main drivers of carbon capture and sequestration, a new international research study has found.

Until now, it was traditionally thought that older, more densely forested areas were the world’s carbon sink workhorses. The new research, with scientists from the CSIRO and Western Sydney University, have found that regrowing forests in previously cleared areas are much more capable of filtering the air of carbon dioxide.

The findings show that younger forests experience exponentially quicker growth through the process of carbon fertilisation.

“Large parts of northern Australia, the United States, Europe and Asia have areas of actively-growing forests and mass tree-planting schemes that drawdown vast quantities of carbon from the air”, said Professor Ben Smith, Director of Research at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University, one of the authors of the study.

The study found that more mature forests, such as the Amazon, strike a balance between carbon dioxide consumption and releases from respiration and decomposition. The study found that older forests may even release more carbon than they consume.

The report concludes that the findings show the importance of combined efforts to reforest and revegetate areas of land that have been stripped of old growth.

“Our study casts light on the opportunity to fulfill our national emissions targets, including sinks from native plant revegetation and carbon forestry,” said CSIRO’s Dr Vanessa Haverd, developer of one of the tools used in the study.

Despite their importance as carbon sinks, regrowth forests around the world enjoy far less protection than old growth forests.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and can be found here

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