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Trees for carbon

Trees, as part of their life cycle, are able to capture atmospheric CO2 and “store” it in structures such as wood, roots or leaves, or incorporate it into the soil. Therefore, when a forest disappears, not only it stops absorbing CO2, but all or much of the carbon that had accumulated over the years is released into the atmosphere.

According to the REDD+ program, sponsored by the UN, deforestation is responsible for 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions, even more than the global transport sector, which accounts for 14%. It is known that tropical forests constitute the most important terrestrial carbon sink and play a fundamental role in mitigating climate change, but… do all tropical forests contibute the same to carbon storage?

Recently we have been granted a small project to establish a baseline monitoring program in tropical montane forests of Ecuador. The project will be implemented in close collaboration with a member of our research team, Oswaldo Jadán, a PhD student from the University of Cuenca, and will be co-supervised by another of our PhD students, Guillermo Bañares de Dios. This initiative will allow us to establish a new line of research to analyze the role that these forests play as carbon storages, and study the dynamics of this process at different elevations, in order to evaluate their relevance as potential carbon sinks in a global context.

To achieve our objectives, we will attach dendrometers to trees to quantify their annual growth in plots located along an altitudinal gradient in the western part of the Cajas massif. It is expected that this action will serve as a starting point for the establishment of other actions that will allow the quantification of other important components of the forest system in relation to carbon sequestration (e.g. vascular and non-vascular epiphytes, litter decomposition, organic matter, roots, etc.). The project will be carried out during 2020 and the most important milestone … will be the installation of the 300 dendrometers in May next year! We will keep you informed.

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