Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Logging and burning cause the loss of 54 million tons of carbon a year in Amazonia


Loss is equivalent to 40 percent of that caused by overall deforestation

A study conducted by scientists in Brazil and the United Kingdom has quantified the impact that selective logging, partial destruction by burning, and fragmentation resulting from the development of pastures and plantations have had on the Amazon rainforest.

In combination, these factors could be removing nearly 54 million tons of carbon from the forest each year, introduced into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. This total represents up to 40% of the carbon loss caused by deforestation in the region.

The study, which was conducted by 10 researchers from 11 institutions in Brazil and the United Kingdom, was published in the May issue of the journal Global Change Biology.

"The impacts of timber extraction, burning and fragmentation have received little notice because all the efforts have been focused on preventing further deforestation. This attitude has resulted in tremendous progress in conserving the Brazilian Amazon, whose deforestation rate fell more than 70% over the past 10 years.

However, our study has shown that this other type of degradation is having a severe impact on the forest, with enormous quantities of previously stored carbon being lost into the atmosphere," said Erika Berenguer, researcher from the Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University, in the United Kingdom, first author on the study.

According to Joice Ferreira, researcher at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa Amazônia Oriental) in Belém, state of Pará, and second author on the study, one of the reasons that this degradation has gone unnoticed is that it is difficult to monitor. "Satellite imagery allows much easier detection of areas that are totally deforested," she said.

"Our research combined satellite imagery with field study. We conducted a pixel-by-pixel assessment [each pixel in the image corresponds to an area measuring 900 meters squared (m2)] regarding what has happened over the past 20 years. In the field research, we studied 225 plots (each 3,000 m2) in two large regions in an area measuring 3 million hectares [30,000 square meters], which we used as a model to estimate what occurred in the Amazon as a whole," Ferreira explained.

The satellite images, compared every two years, have enabled researchers to put together an extensive overview of the degradation of the forest along a 20-year timeline. The field research assessed scarring from burning, timber extraction and other disturbances. The combination of the two investigations resulted in the estimate of carbon stock available today.

Two regions were studied in loco: Santarém and Paragominas, in the eastern part of the Amazon region, both under strong degradation pressures. Two hundred twenty-five areas were investigated in these two regions.

"We collected data from more than 70,000 trees and took more than 5,000 samples of soil, dead wood and other components of what is known as carbon stock. It was the largest study conducted to date regarding carbon loss from tropical forests due to selective logging and wildfires," Ferreira said.

According to her, the research included four of the five functionally distinct carbon pools whose study is recommended by the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): aboveground biomass (live plants), dead organic matter, leaf litter (layer that contains a combination of fragments of leaves, branches and other decomposing organic matter) and soil (up to 30 centimeters (cm) in depth). "The only thing we didn't measure was the carbon stock in the roots," she said.

For comparative purposes, five categories of forest were considered: primary (totally intact) forest; forest affected by logging; forest affected by fires; forest affected by selective logging and fires; and secondary forests (regenerating after complete clearance).

The forests that were disturbed by logging or fire had from 18% to 57% less carbon than primary forests. One area of primary forest ended up having more than 300 tons of carbon per hectare, while areas of forest that had been burned or subjected to timber extraction had, at most, 200 tons per hectare and, on average, less than 100 tons of carbon per hectare.

In addition to the researchers already mentioned, the Global Change Biology article was co-authored by Toby Alan Gardner (University of Cambridge and the Stockholm Environment Institute), Carlos Eduardo Cerri and Mariana Durigan (Luis de Queiroz College of Agriculture/USP), Luiz Eduardo Oliveira e Cruz de Aragão (National Institute for Space Research and the University of Exeter), Raimundo Cosme de Oliveira Junior (Embrapa Amazônia Oriental) and Ima Célia Guimarães Vieira (Emílio Goeldi Museum of Pará).

Samuel Antenor | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Change Environment atmosphere degradation extraction forests hectare timber

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s
26.11.2015 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Network analysis shows systemic risk in mineral markets
16.11.2015 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Siemens helps transform the main wastewater treatment plant in Vienna into a green power plant

30.11.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New Analysis Technique for Chiral Activity in Molecules

30.11.2015 | Life Sciences

Siemens to supply 126 megawatts to onshore wind power plants in Scotland

27.11.2015 | Press release

More VideoLinks >>>