Contrary to the longstanding view that ageing forests are carbon neutral or even pollute more than they absorb, new evidence shows that forests that reach peak maturity do not stop soaking up and storing carbon.
A team of scientists have recently searched literature and databases for forest carbon-flux estimates. In the 11/8/08 edition of Nature, their paper shows that forests that are between 15 and 800 years of age continue to capture and store carbon. In the past foresters and governments have conveniently claimed that mature forests emit as much carbon as they absorb.
“The currently available data consistently indicate that carbon accumulation continues in forests that are centuries old.”
In fact, young forests, rather than old-growth forests, are very often sources of CO2 because the creation of young forests (whether naturally or by humans) frequently follows disturbance to the previous vegetation. This results in a decomposition rate of coarse woody debris, litter and soil organic matter that exceeds the carbon capture and storage ability of the regrowth.
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