Deforestation-Induced Climate Change Reduces Carbon Storage in Remaining Tropical Forests

Deforestation-Induced Climate Change Reduces Carbon Storage in Remaining Tropical Forests


Deforestation of tropical forests alters the biophysical properties of the forest's surface, which contributes to regional warming and drying. These environmental changes, in turn, could impact non-degraded forests, reducing the rates of photosynthesis and increasing the release of carbon through autotrophic respiration, as well as the risk of a wildfire. Consequently, it is important to improve the accuracy of carbon and climate benefits of a land management action (e.g., avoided deforestation) to enable a more effective valuation of the carbon credits issued for a specific project.


The authors aim to study how deforestation-induced changes in annual mean rainfall and air temperature are impacting the aboveground vegetation carbon stocks of the remaining undisturbed forests. To do so, they compare the relative magnitude of the biophysical carbon cost to the direct aboveground biomass loss from tropical deforestation across three different continental regions (Amazon, Congo, and the maritime continent in tropical Asia).


Biophysical climate effects, particularly related to the decrease in precipitation, add to committed carbon emissions by 5.1+-3.7% and 3.8+-2.5% in the Amazon and Congo rainforests, respectively. This increase in carbon losses is a consequence of the impacts of increased temperatures and dryness in the remaining intact forests. Therefore, the value of avoided deforestation may be underestimated if carbon offset programs’ methodology only accounts for direct carbon stock and emission changes associated with the land-use change.


Li Y, Brando PM, Morton DC, Lawrence DM, Yang H, Randerson JT. Deforestation-induced climate change reduces carbon storage in remaining tropical forestsAbstract. Nature Communications. 2022;13(1). doi:10.1038/s41467-022-29601-0.