The carbon sink of secondary and degraded humid tropical forests

The carbon sink of secondary and degraded humid tropical forests


The Forest and Land use Declaration from the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties underscores the crucial role of tropical moist forests  as a nature-based solution to address climate and ecological emergencies. However, the Amazon, Borneo, and Central Africa forests experience ongoing forest cover losses due to various anthropogenic drivers. This has led to a mosaic of recovering forests at different stages post-disturbance, with limited understanding of their impact on forest carbon dynamics. 

Goals and methods:

The primary objectives of the article are to investigate and quantify the carbon accumulation rates in two distinct types of recovering forests in the Amazon, Borneo, and Central Africa forests: secondary forests (which emerge on abandoned, deforested land) and degraded forests (characterized by partial loss of tree canopy due to factors such as logging, fire, or climate extremes).  This information is crucial for frameworks like REDD+ and aligns with the goals of the Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.

Conclusions and Takeaways:

The study estimates that recovering forests counterbalanced 26% of gross emissions from deforestation and degradation between 1984 and 2018. If all degraded forests were preserved, the contribution could have been 48%. Looking ahead, protecting recovering forests could result in a 32% increase in carbon sink potential by 2030. However, challenges like ongoing deforestation and degradation highlight the need for targeted conservation efforts. While old-growth forests remain a priority for climate mitigation, investing in sustainably conserving recovering forests is crucial for their significant carbon sink role.




Heinrich VHA, Vancutsem C, Dalagnol R, et al. The carbon sink of secondary and degraded humid tropical forests. Nature. 2023;615(7952):436 - 442. doi:10.1038/s41586-022-05679-w.