Tropical forest (illustration)
Tropical forest (illustration) Thinkstock

A new research study led by NASA has reversed commonly held theories about carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, finding that the emissions in fact are absorbed by tropical forests at a higher rate than they are released by them, leading to a boost in growth in the forests.

The study found tropical forests absorb 1.5 billion tons of CO2 annually, using it to grow. Overall the forests and other vegetation absorb around 2.7 billion tons of CO2, about 30% of the amount emitted by humans, reports the British Daily Mail.

"This is good news, because uptake in boreal forests is already slowing, while tropical forests may continue to take up carbon for many years," said Dr. David Schimel, a researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California who headed the study.

Data until now had been interpreted to suggest tropical forests were releasing more CO2 than they absorb. But the new study finds the opposite is true - tropical forests use much more CO2 to grow at faster rates than previously thought.

The research led by Schimel was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, and was based on computer models, satellite imagery, data from forest plots and photosynthetic experiments, all coming together to detail how forests absorb CO2.

Schimel warned that given the results, the disastrous effects of deforestation in tropical forests takes on whole new dimensions, and that they should be preserved by all means.

"The future tropical balance of deforestation and climate sources and regrowth and carbon dioxide sinks will only remain a robust feature of the global carbon cycle if the vast tropical forests are protected from destruction," stated Schimel.

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