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Seeing the forest and the trees

t extinction scenarios and analyzing the resulting mix of tree species, the team was able to determine how much carbon the forest was able to hold.

They found, for example, that converting tropical forests to less-diverse tree plantations containing only species with high wood density such as teak resulted in a 75 percent increase in the forest's carbon-storage capacity--so long as the trees are not harvested. By contrast, selectively logging trees with high wood density was found to reduce carbon storage by as much as 70 percent. Other scenarios, such as disease outbreaks that result in a selective loss of large or slow-growing trees, also produced a marked decline in the forest's ability to sequester carbon.

Moreover, the study concludes that forest diversity provides a measure of "biological insurance" that prevents large swings in carbon sequestration or any other service a healthy forest provides such as soil stability or fruit production that might arise from a single extinction scenario.

"In general, we found that when you have more species, things are more predictable," said Bunker, who was lead author on the study. "It's like having a diversified investment portfolio. Having many different types of trees lowers overall variability of a forest's ability to provide crucial services."


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Contact: Ken Kostel
kkostel@ei.columbia.edu
212-854-9729
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
21-Oct-2005


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