Tropical forests provide global climate regulation ecosystem services and their clearing is a significant source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resultant radiative forcing of climate change. However, consensus on pan-tropical forest carbon dynamics is lacking. We present a new estimate that employs recommended good practices to quantify gross tropical forest aboveground carbon (AGC) loss from 2000 to 2012 through the integration of Landsat-derived tree canopy cover, height, intactness and forest cover loss and GLAS-lidar derived forest biomass. An unbiased estimate of forest loss area is produced using a stratified random sample with strata derived from a wall-to-wall 30 m forest cover loss map. Our sample-based results separate the gross loss of forest AGC into losses from natural forests (0.59 PgC yr-1) and losses from managed forests (0.43 PgC yr-1) including plantations, agroforestry systems and subsistence agriculture. Latin America accounts for 43% of gross AGC loss and 54% of natural forest AGC loss, with Brazil experiencing the highest AGC loss for both categories at national scales. We estimate gross tropical forest AGC loss and natural forest loss to account for 11% and 6% of global year 2012 CO2 emissions, respectively. Given recent trends, natural forests will likely constitute an increasingly smaller proportion of tropical forest GHG emissions and of global emissions as fossil fuel consumption increases, with implications for the valuation of co-benefits in tropical forest conservation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
- General Environmental Science
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health