Large carbon sink potential of secondary forests in the Brazilian Amazon to mitigate climate change

Published in Nature Communications

Viola H. A. Heinrich, Ricardo Dalagnol, Henrique L. G. Cassol, Thais M. Rosan, Catherine Torres de Almeida, Celso H. L. Silva Junior, Wesley A. Campanharo, Joanna I. House, Stephen Sitch, Tristram C. Hales, Marcos Adami, Liana O. Anderson & Luiz E. O. C. Aragão 

Publication year 2021
IAI Program


IAI Project SGPHW-016


Tropical secondary forests sequester carbon up to 20 times faster than old-growth forests. This rate does not capture spatial regrowth patterns due to environmental and disturbance drivers. Here we quantify the influence of such drivers on the rate and spatial patterns of regrowth in the Brazilian Amazon using satellite data. Carbon sequestration rates of young secondary forests (<20 years) in the west are ~60% higher (3.0 ± 1.0 Mg C ha&minus1 yr&minus1) compared to those in the east (1.3 ± 0.3 Mg C ha&minus1 yr&minus1). Disturbances reduce regrowth rates by 8&ndash55%. The 2017 secondary forest carbon stock, of 294 Tg C, could be 8% higher by avoiding fires and repeated deforestation. Maintaining the 2017 secondary forest area has the potential to accumulate ~19.0 Tg C yr&minus1 until 2030, contributing ~5.5% to Brazil&rsquos 2030 net emissions reduction target. Implementing legal mechanisms to protect and expand secondary forests whilst supporting old-growth conservation is, therefore, key to realising their potential as a nature-based climate solution.