Carbon uptake by Amazon forests matches Amazon nations' carbon emissions

Carbon emissions across all nine Amazon nations have been fully matches by carbon absorption by mature Amazon forests since the 1980s, new research shows.

Study lead author Professor Oliver Phillips, from the University of Leeds, said: “Since 1980 roughly 430 million tonnes of carbon has been absorbed by pristine Amazon rainforest each year, which is almost four times the UK emissions for 2016. For the nations of the Amazon basin as a whole this means that since 1980 the carbon uptake has matched the entire combined emissions from deforestation and fossil fuels.”

Co-author Dr Roel Brienen, also from the Leeds School of Geography, said: “This reveals the sheer scale of the ecosystem service the Amazon forests are providing. We’ve known that the Amazon rainforest forest provides a ‘carbon sink’ but until now no one had looked at those absorption figures in the context of national boundaries. We found that in nearly every nation carbon uptake has outstripped emissions from fossil fuels.”

The Amazon rainforest’s carbon sink, also known as carbon sequestration, is the process by which the forest removes and stores carbon from the atmosphere. A study, published today in Carbon Balance and Management, compared estimates of the Amazon rainforest carbon sink to fossil fuel emissions data from the 9 countries where mature Amazon forests are found – Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, as well as emissions from forest loss and degradation.