The carbon emissions from cutting down tropical forests may be about one third of the level previously estimated, according to an article in the journal Science.
A team of nine scientists used satellite-imagery data to better measure the effects of global deforestation between 2000 and 2005, said Nancy Harris, lead author of the article. Brazil and Indonesia produced 55 percent of the total emissions, according to the article published today.
“Deforestation is still a very large and significant problem,” Harris, a carbon and land-use specialist at Little Rock, Arkansas-based environmental group Winrock International, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Just because our numbers are lower does not necessarily mean that deforestation is not as bad.”
Cutting down tropical forests accounted for 10 percent of man-made carbon emissions, according to the results tabulated by the team, which included research from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Policy makers, farmers, forestry experts and scientists all will need to work together to reduce worldwide carbon emissions “and the forest plays a critical role in that,” Harris said.
“Regardless of what scale these policy strategies happen at -- project scale, national scale, state levels -- we now have the ability to monitor what happens, so we can evaluate whether policies are actually making a difference,” Harris said.