London: Forests are becoming larger carbon sinks, thanks to higher density which has helped maintain regional carbon levels in the face of deforestation, according to the latest research from US and Europe.
In Europe and North America, increased density significantly raised carbon storage in trees despite little or no expansion of forest area, according to the study, led by Aapo Rautiainen of the University of Helsinki, Finland.
Even in the South American nations studied, more density helped maintain regional carbon levels in the face of deforestation, reports the journal Public Library of Science.
The researchers analyzed information from 68 nations, accounting for 72 percent of the world`s forested land and 68 percent of reported carbon mass, according to a Helsinki statement.
They conclude that managing forests for timber growth and density offers a way to increase stored carbon, even with little or no expansion of forest area.
"In 2004 emissions and removals of carbon dioxide from land use, land-use change and forestry comprised about one-fifth of total emissions. Tempering the fifth by slowing or reversing the loss of carbon in forests would be a worthwhile mitigation. The great role of density means that not only conservation of forest area but also managing denser, healthier forests can mitigate carbon emission," says Rautiainen.
Co-author Paul E. Waggoner, forestry expert with Connecticut`s Agricultural Experiment Station, says remote sensing by satellites of the world`s forest area brings access to remote places and a uniform method.
"However, to speak of carbon, we must look beyond measurements of area and apply forestry methods traditionally used to measure timber volumes," he says.
"Forests are like cities - they can grow both by spreading and by becoming denser," says co-author Iddo Wernick of The Rockefeller University`s Program for the Human Environment.