In the course of centuries, decades and millennia the steady upward climb of redwoods the tangled mangroves along the tropical coasts, and the gradual submersion peatlands that are rich in carbon has trapped millions of tonnes of carbon.
When these naturally-occurring vaults are damaged, as a result of deforestation or the dredging of swamplands it could take several centuries before the redwoods or mangroves can re-grow back to their original size and recover all that carbon. This carbon is “irrecoverable” on a time scale of decades, not centuries to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. conserving it is essential.
Through a brand new map project by scientists, they have determined the amount of carbon that is irrecoverable in mangroves, peatlands and peatlands forests and in other places around the world — and what areas require protection.
The latest estimate puts an estimate of the entire amount of unrecoverable carbon at the astronomical figure of 139 gigatons Researchers report their findings on the findings on November 18 in Nature Sustainability. That’s equivalent to around 15 years of carbon dioxide emissions from humans at the current level. If all of that carbon was released, it’s likely enough to push the earth over 1.5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming over the preindustrial level.
“This is carbon that we need to protect in order to avoid catastrophic climate change,” says Monica Noon who is an ecological data expert with Conservation International in Arlington, Va. The current efforts to limit global warming under the target of 1.5 degrees Celsius will require us to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and that the carbon stored in the natural world remains there ( SN:12/17/18). However, other development stresses are threatening certain carbon storages.
To determine the location of the at-risk carbon, Noon and her colleagues used satellite data along with estimates of the amount of carbon is stored within ecosystems susceptible to human intrusion. They excluded areas such as permafrost that holds a lot of carbon but isn’t likely develop (although it is thawing because of warming) in addition to the plantations of trees, which have already been modified ( SN: 9/25/19). The researchers calculated then the amount of carbon released by land conversions, like clearing forests for farmland.
The land could store different quantities of carbon, based on whether it’s an oil palm plantation or a parking area. To make things easier, researchers assumed that the that the land cleared was left to itself and saplings were free to expand where giants stood. This allowed them to determine the amount of time it could be for the carbon released to be returned to the landscape. The majority of the carbon could remain in the atmosphere until 2050, according to the team that, since many of these ecosystems require centuries of time in order to recover the glory of their past, making it unrecoverable over a period which is crucial for tackling climate change.
The release of 139 gigatons irrecoverable carbon could result in irreparable effects. To put it in perspective with it is estimated that the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that human beings can only emit the equivalent of 109 gigatons more carbon, which would have a 2/3 probability of keeping warming to less than 1.5 Celsius. C. “These will be those areas that we have to guard,” Noon says.
Around half of this unrecoverable carbon is found on 3.3 percent of the Earth’s total surface, which is about the total area in India and Mexico together. The most important areas are located situated in the Amazon as well as The Pacific Northwest, and the mangroves and tropical forests of Borneo. “The fact that it’s dense means we can safeguard the area,” Noon says.
About half of the carbon that is irrecoverable is already in protected areas, or land controlled in the hands of Indigenous peoples. In addition, adding another 8 million square km of protection areas which amounts to just 5.4 percentage of earth’s surface, would put 75 percent of the carbon under some type or protection. Noon says.
“It’s essential to have maps that are spatially specific of where these unrecoverable carbon stocks arelocated,” states Kate Dooley, a geographer at the University of Melbourne in Australia who was not involved in the research. “It’s only a tiny fraction of the world however it’s still an enormous amount of land.” A lot of these rich carbon stores are located in areas that are with a high chance of developing according to Dooley.
“It’s difficult to stop this flurry of forest destruction,” the scientist says however these maps will aid in focusing the efforts of government agencies as well as civil society organizations and academics to the areas which are most important to the climate.