According to a new NASA study, tropical forests are absorbing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than previously thought, in response to rising greenhouse gases. Tropical forests have now been show to absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of CO2, accounting for 56 percent of global forest CO2 absorption. The adaptation of forests to carbon emissions has a name:”carbon fertilization.” Forests, in fact, may be using these emissions to grow more quickly. According to David Schimel at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs, “This is good news, because uptake in boreal forests is already slowing, while tropical forests may continue to take up carbon for many years.”

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The data has massive implications for our understanding of how ecosystems can offset the effects of climate change. One flip side to this phenomena, for example, is that climate change also decreases water availability, making forest fires more frequent.

Related: INFOGRAPHIC: How America’s Forests can Help to Reduce Our Carbon Footprint

Schimel speaks highly of the results: “What we’ve had up till this paper was a theory of carbon dioxide fertilization based on phenomena at the microscopic scale and observations at the global scale that appeared to contradict those phenomena,” he states. “Here, at least, is a hypothesis that provides a consistent explanation that includes both how we know photosynthesis works and what’s happening at the planetary scale.” 

This data reinforces the idea that we should do everything we can to keep our tropical forests intact. Especially as the world’s coral reefs fall to shipping, pollution, and ocean acidification, we’re going to need as many planetary backup lungs and filter systems as we can get.

Via Science Daily

Images via Wikimedia Commons: here, here and here.