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Amazon stores 10 billion tons of carbon in ‘dead wood’

Old growth forests in the Amazon store nearly 10 billion tons of carbon in dead trees and branches, a total greater than global annual emissions from fossil fuel combustion, according to scientists who have conducted the first pan-Amazon analysis of “necromass.”

The findings, published in Biogeosciences, provide a better picture of carbon dioxide emissions that result from the degradation and destruction of old growth forests and may help improve models used to determine compensation under a proposed scheme to pay tropical countries for reducing emissions from deforestation.

The research was led by Kuo-Jung Chao of the University of Leeds, working with colleagues from RAINFOR, an international research network that works to “understand the biomass and dynamics of Amazonian forests.”

The Amazon is estimated to 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon, according to calculations by other scientists.

K.-J. Chao et al. After trees die: quantities and determinants of necromass across Amazonia. Biogeosciences, 6, 1615–1626, 2009.

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