The World Daily
Forests turning into carbon emitters due to climate change

Rainforest in Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Madam Besson from FreeImages 


By Patryk Krych | The World Daily | OCTOBER 28th 2021 


The combination of human actions and a changing climate has led to ten of some of the world’s most protected forests gradually turning into carbon emitters according to a recent report.

Over the past 20 years, the industrial logging, deforestation, and severe wildfires that have broken out all across the world have slowly led to forests emitting more carbon emissions than they’re capable of storing away according to a report from UNESCO, the World Resources Institute, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

At least ten such forests have been UNESCO world heritage sites, such as the Greater Blue Mountains area in Australia, the tropical rainforests of Sumatra in Indonesia and even the Yosemite national park in the US.

These three forests are an example of areas that have, since 2001, emitted more carbon than they have absorbed. The report added that this may only be the beginning however, as more forests are predicted to become carbon emitters over the coming years.

“What is happening at a world heritage site level is only the tip of the iceberg. Even in what are supposed to be the best and most protected areas, they are currently under pressure from climate change,” said a UNESCO project officer and report co-author, Tales Carvalho Resende.

He added: “Our finding that even some of the most iconic and best protected forests, such as those found in World Heritage sites, can actually contribute to climate change is alarming and brings to light evidence of the severity of this climate emergency.”

The study made use of global satellite mapping with ground level monitoring in order to make an estimation for how much gross and net carbon had been absorbed and emitted by the World Heritage forests throughout 2001 to 2020. The results showed that the World Heritage forests had only managed to absorb the equivalent of approximately 190 million tons of carbon dioxide – which is comparable to only about half of the UK’s annual emission rates. 


“We now have the most detailed picture to date of the vital role that forests in World Heritage sites play in mitigating climate change,” said Resende. “All forests should be assets in the fight against climate change.”

According to the report, forests have stored some 13 billion tons of carbon over the many centuries of their existence. This is about equal to all of Kuwait's proven oil reserves, and could prove incredibly harmful if it were all to be released.

“I would expect all of them to be removing carbon for the atmosphere, and not to be sources of carbon,” said Carlos Sanquetta a forestry engineering professor at the Federal University of Parana in Brazil. “Instead of playing a role in carbon sequestration they are a playing a role in carbon emissions.”

“One of the things that really got our attention was the impact of wildfires. Some sites flipped into sources because of one or two wildfires that were so intense they represented the annual emissions of many countries in the world,” added Carvalho Resende. “It’s a vicious cycle. With global warming, you have more fires. With more fires, there’s more CO2. More CO2 means temperatures continue to increase.” 


By Patryk Krych | © The World Daily 2021 

Source: Al Jazeera, the Guardian, Reuters,