According to a study conducted by NASA, different types of forests have different intakes of carbon dioxide. The study concludes that of the 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide absorbed annually, tropical forests absorb around 1.4 billion metric tons of that amount. This is a greater amount absorbed than the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere. NASA scientist David Schimel characterized these findings as “good news” because the boreal forest absorption rate of carbon dioxide has been declining. However, scientists believe that tropical forests can continue to intake large amounts of carbon dioxide for many more years. Therefore, the fact that tropical forests play a large role in the absorption of carbon dioxide provides hope that nature will continue to limit the net carbon dioxide emissions that humans pour into the atmosphere.
Scientists have concluded that if the rate of absorption of carbon dioxide by forests slows down, then global warming could occur much faster. Previous studies had suggested that boreal forests might absorb more carbon dioxide than their tropical counterparts; however, this study finds that carbon dioxide absorption occurs more frequently at higher temperatures, indicating that tropical forests have the highest intake. The increased human emission of carbon dioxide gives the forests more fuel to grow, a process called carbon fertilization. Conversely, the climate change brought about by increased carbon dioxide emissions has caused water shortages in some areas as well as an increase in temperature, both factors facilitating the spread of wildfires. The burning of wood caused by these fires further increases the carbon dioxide emissions.
Despite the continual problems caused by increased carbon dioxide emissions, this study still provides hope for the near future. Not only can tropical forests continue to absorb high levels of carbon dioxide for many more years, but also this study might serve as a stepping stone for more complex research of emissions on a global scale that could facilitate the discovery a solution to the problem of global warming.