Dead Forests Release Less Carbon Into Atmosphere Than Expected

(From UA News, March 22, 2013)

Billions of trees killed in the wake of mountain pine beetle infestations, ranging from Mexico to Alaska, have not resulted in a large spike in carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, contrary to predictions, a UA-led study has found.

Massive tree die-offs release less carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, new research led by the University of Arizona suggests.

Across the world, trees are dying in increasing numbers, most likely in the wake of a climate changing toward drier and warmer conditions, scientists suspect. In western North America, outbreaks of mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) have killed billions of trees from Mexico to Alaska over the last decade.

Given that large forested areas play crucial roles in taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis and turning it into biomass, an important question is what happens to that stored carbon when large numbers of trees die.

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