New Kind Of Map Shows Why Peru's Rain Forests Are Critical
In this May 3, 2014 photo, a rope hangs around the trunk of a tree at a illegal gold mining process in La Pampa in Peru's Madre de Dios region. An estimated 20,000 miners toil in this malarial expanse of denuded rainforest known as La Pampa. Though regions like this have cleared some of Peru's rain forest, a new map shows how critical Peru's rain forests are in trapping carbon which plays a big role in combating climate change.Rodrigo Abd / AP
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Published July 31, the $1.2-million study was carried out by a team led by Greg Asner, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC.
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Using state-of-the-art laser technology Asner developed to penetrate the forest canopy, the team spent more than three months flying over the Peruvian Amazon — an area twice the size of California.
Gauging forest carbon by the traditional method — on foot, measuring trunk diameters by hand — would have taken so long it would have been impossible.
It also would have been far less precise and would have cost vastly more than the 1-cent-per-hectare (2.47 acres) rate for the Carnegie team.
The map produced by the research even shows carbon density hectare by hectare across the country, with red representing the highest concentrations and blue the least. In the densest parts of the jungle, the trees stored a massive 168 metric tons of carbon per hectare.
Peru has the world’s fourth largest tropical rain forest, with only Brazil, Congo and Indonesia having more. But it may be about to move into third place thanks to heavy logging on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, Asner says.
The Peruvian Amazon remains relatively intact. But pressures are building, including logging, illegal mining, agriculture, poaching and climate change itself, and starting to ail the jungle.