Environment

Even protected forest areas are significant source of CO2 emission: study

Most of the carbon-emitting protected areas are located in Brazil and Indonesia

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Thursday 23 February 2017
Just 10 protected areas contributed one-third of all recorded carbon emissions.
Just 10 protected areas contributed one-third of all recorded carbon emissions. Just 10 protected areas contributed one-third of all recorded carbon emissions.

Not all protected areas are well-protected. Researchers at the School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh have found out that deforestation within protected areas of the tropics—especially in Brazil and Indonesia—leads to a release of millions of metric tonnes of carbon every year.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, revealed that 2,018 protected areas across the tropics store nearly 15 per cent of all tropical forest carbon and nearly 0.2 per cent of forest cover in protected area was razed per year between 2000 and 2012. The researchers found that the carbon emissions were unevenly distributed across protected areas with less than nine per cent of the reserves sampled by researchers contributing 80 per cent of the total carbon emissions during the same period.

Findings

By using published carbon and forest loss maps, the researchers estimated carbon emissions in large forest protected areas in tropical countries. Just 10 protected areas contributed one-third of all recorded carbon emissions, with most of these high-emitting areas being located within Brazil and Indonesia, which are collectively responsible for nearly 50 per cent of all carbon emissions.

Brazil’s Triunfo do Xingu Environmental Protection Area lost nearly 24 per cent of its tree cover between 2001 and 2014. Credit: Global Forest Watch

According to the study, top five carbon-emitting protected areas are Maya Biosphere Reserve (Guatemala), Patuca National Park (Honduras), Sebangau National Park (Indonesia) and Triunfo Do Xingu Environmental Protection Area and Jamanxim National Forest, both in Brazil.  

While Brazil’s Triunfo do Xingu Environmental Protection Area lost nearly 24 per cent of its tree cover between 2001 and 2014, Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve lost around 36 per cent of its tree cover, leading to the release of about 54.3 million metric tonnes of CO2.

What is concerning is large emissions being witnessed in a relatively small set of parks. Despite representing only around one per cent of all protected areas in the world, 23 parks produced nearly one-third of all carbon emissions recorded between 2000 and 2012.

The study was aimed at quantifying the impact of the “misperception” that deforestation is not occurring within the global protected area network. Deforestation is a major source of atmospheric carbon, and it is increasingly targeted by climate change mitigation projects around the world.  Given that deforestation continues in both inside and outside protected areas, it is essential to link forest management to any climate change solution.

Several reports in the past had pointed out that crucial biodiversity areas have not yet come under protection radar and inadequate management has limited effectiveness of protected areas.

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