Old, diverse forests best at capturing CO2, researchers conclude


A study by an international team of scientists, including from Antwerp University, shows that forests containing a variety of trees are the most stable at carbon absorption

Wake-up call

An international team of researchers, including scientists from Antwerp University (UAntwerp), have compared the ability of 50 forests around the world to absorb CO2. The scientists discovered that old-growth forests consisting of many sorts of trees offer the largest and most stable carbon dioxide-capturing mechanism in the biosphere.

The results, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, were obtained after a thorough comparison of 50 forests in various climate zones by studying their individual carbon balance. The photosynthetic capacity and the carbon dioxide balance can vary considerably over the years, which is mainly due to short-term changes in the climate. But the researchers managed to eliminate these variations to obtain a clear and objective picture of the long-term capture capacity of many types of forests.

“These findings should serve as a wake-up call; we have to treat these kinds of forests that we still have very carefully,” said professor Ivan Janssens, a plant and vegetation ecologist at UAntwerp. “Our study also shows that older forests are more resistant to climate extremes – which will occur more and more frequently – and that they are a reliable partner in our fight against global warming.”