“They’re really important in slowing the rate of climate change and what we show in this study is that, more worryingly, this carbon sink, this ability to sequester carbon is starting to decline.”
Professor Lewis and 98 other authors published the findings of their study today (March 4) in the journal Nature.
The scientists observed some 300,000 trees in 565 undisturbed tropical forests for more than 30 years.
Nearly 100 institutions took part in the large-scale study to measure tree growth and tree death over three decades.
Rainforests store carbon through sequestration by removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it in the trees and the soil.
However, the intact rainforests’ ability to store carbon peaked in the 1990s and since the 2010s has dropped on average by about one-third.