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Carbon Mapping Peru Shows Natural and Manmade Variations

Peru Carbon Concentrations (Red is High, Blue is Low)
Peru Carbon Concentrations (Red is High, Blue is Low)

Carbon sequestration, according to some, could be key in reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and the resulting greenhouse effect.

Climate change scientists point to carbon, of course, as being the most prolific greenhouse gas in the last two hundred years, linked directly to our discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels. Aside from reducing or eliminating the use of fossil fuels, carbon capture and sequestration seeks to accomplish what fossil fuels had originally done millions of years ago, that is, store carbon.

The world’s forests, such as the rainforests in northern Peru, do much the same thing, but on a much shorter time scale. For example, forests are far more vulnerable to human activity, that is, a guy with a $500 chain saw can drop an acre of rainforest in a month, some of those trees being many hundreds of years old. Landslides, disease, pests, and weather can also affect forest cover and its subsequent carbon storage. A recent mapping of the forest cover in Peru, conducted by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory and the Ministry of Environment of Peru (MAP – Ministerio del Ambiente Perú), gives us a good idea how the rainforest is doing so far in sequestering carbon dioxide.

Using sophisticated scanning equipment and a number of calculations, CAO and MAP were able to determine just how much carbon dioxide is currently sequestered in the country. The lowest concentrations, of course, are on the coast and in the western and southern desert areas. Head north and east, over the Andes mountain range, and the great rainforests hold heavy concentrations of carbon. All in all, some 6.9 billion metric tons of carbon are stored in the forest cover of Peru, a little more than all the carbon dioxide emitted by the world’s one-billion-plus automobiles in a year.

Clearly, to support the carbon emissions of a billion automobiles, we’re certainly not on track to plant a quarter-million acres of rainforest every year. On the contrary, the world losing about 80 million acres of rainforest every year. In Peru, much as in other underdeveloped countries, petroleum and mineral extraction is responsible for much of the disappearing forest cover, releasing tons of carbon back into the atmosphere.

Image © CAO

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