An international research team with the participation of Czech microbiologists has determined the annual contribution of dead wood to the global carbon cycle. According to scientists, dead trees release as much carbon every year as burning fossil fuels.
The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic reported this. As part of the project, which involved 50 research groups from around the world, including the Institute of Microbiology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, the scientists also calculated for the first time how much insects contribute to the decomposition of dead wood.
At 55 forest sites on six continents, scientists analyzed the wood of more than 140 tree species to assess the impact of climate on their rate of decomposition. Half of the wood was placed in mesh cages. On the one hand, these cages prevented insects from participating in decomposition, but at the same time they made it possible to determine the role involved in decomposition of wood.
Living trees absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. Thus it plays an important role in climate protection. However, so far little is known about the fate of dead wood decomposition in the global carbon cycle. The decomposition of wood and the recycling of nutrients in it are among the most important processes that occur in forests.
The data obtained indicate that the rate of decomposition of dead wood and the proportion of insects are highly dependent on climate and increase with increasing temperature. Heavy rainfall speeds up decomposition in warmer regions and slows it down in areas with lower temperatures.
“We estimate that approximately 10.9 gigatons of carbon will be released from dead wood worldwide each year. Part of the carbon is absorbed into the soil, and the other part is released into the atmosphere,” said Peter Baldrian of the Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology. In the Czech Republic the amount of carbon emitted from dead wood roughly corresponds to global emissions from fossil fuels. He added that given the reduction in insect diversity due to climate change, climate change is proving that it can significantly affect wood decay and thus the global carbon balance. Czech scientists study in a professional journal temper nature.
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