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Forests – just how absorbing are they?


Forests form an integral part of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change because they act as terrestrial “sinks” to soak up the carbon emissions that are contributing to global warming. Countries that have ratified the protocol can offset their carbon emissions quota by planting trees, either at home or in developing countries. But how efficient is this “carbon trading” and how good are forests at absorbing these extra carbon emissions?

Nearly one hundred of the world’s leading experts on global warming will gather in Southampton from 1-4 April 2003 to share the results of their latest research on the role that forests can play in mitigating climate change. Bob Watson, Chief Scientist of the World Bank – the body overseeing global carbon trading - will open the symposium by examining the key part that ecology plays in global policies to ameliorate climate change.

Professor Howard Griffiths of the University of Cambridge will tell the symposium: “The remit for plant scientists is a hefty one. Not only do we need to quantify the capacity of global terrestrial carbon sinks, but we also need to critically assess the methods and models we use to make sure that our measurements are accurate and reliable enough to predict likely future levels of carbon.”

Speaking at the symposium, Professor John Grace of the University of Edinburgh and President of the British Ecological Society will highlight the complexity of the carbon cycle, understanding of which is crucial for predicting and reducing the impact of climate change. According to Professor Grace: “The challenge is to predict the behaviour of carbon cycles over the next few decades. There are substantial gaps in our capacity to conduct adequate surveillance, as well as in our knowledge of how the carbon cycle works.”

Sarah Blackford | alfa

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