And while the forest health generally improved during the analysis period — the carbon loss from deforestation fell by 7 million tonnes per year — the carbon losses at the edge of the forest did not change.
Sometimes called the planet’s “lungs”, the rainforests of the Amazonian play an important role in controlling the carbon dioxide levels on Earth.
Forests with trees are thick and drain CO2, reducing the burden of greenhouse gases. But the effect is significantly reduced at the edge of the rainforest. The clear cutting projects of industries like wood and palm oil there weaken the integrity of the forest.
New research quantifies exactly what we lose along the edges where forests meet agriculture.
From 2001 to 2015, Amazon forests lost 947 million tons of carbon storage along its edge, a new finding. That is a third of the amount of carbon lost by all deforestation in the same time period.
And while forest health generally improved during the time period analyzed — carbon loss from deforestation dropped by 7 million tons per year — the carbon losses at the edge of the forest did not change.
Instead, this side effect of deforestation – known as an “edge effect – has persistently persisted.
The first source of carbon loss in tropical forests is erosion, but it does not function alone, write the authors of the study published in Science Advances.
The forest fragmentation, a result of the deforestation process, promotes indirect carbon losses caused by the edge effect.
That process is not implicitly taken into account when we make policies to reduce carbon emissions in the tropical — but it should be, argument the researchers in the new study.