The emissions of carbon from deforestation and degradation in the tropics: past trends and future potential

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Abstract

Land use in the tropics, including both deforestation and forest degradation, is estimated to have emitted approximately 1.4 PgC yr-1 to the atmosphere over the interval 1990–2010 (∼15% of anthropogenic carbon emissions). This net emission is composed of gross emissions of at least 2.6 PgC yr-1 and gross sinks of 1.2 PgC yr-1 in forests recovering from wood harvest and in the fallows of shifting cultivation. In contrast to recent management of tropical forests, future management in the region could be used to stabilize the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, at least temporarily, with the following three measures: a halt to deforestation and forest degradation, protection of regrowing forests, and the re-establishment of forests on lands not intensively used now that were forests in the past. Together, these three measures have the potential to reduce emissions of carbon and increase uptake by as much as 3–5 PgC yr-1.

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