SANTIAGO — The Amazon is often referred to as the “Earth’s lungs” because its forests store large amounts of carbon dioxide. It contains over half of the planet’s tropical forests. However, a recent study shows that Chilean forests in Patagonia store three times more carbon dioxide per hectare than those in the Amazon.
Chilean Patagonia makes a relevant environmental contribution, covering 11.8Mha that include national parks and forests. But data on how much carbon dioxide these forests store were nonexistent until recently.
The National Geographic Society and the Tompkins Conservation Foundation studied the environmental contribution of the Route of Parks of Patagonia. Results show that forests in the area store up to three times more carbon dioxide per hectare than the Amazon forests.
Three Times More Than The Amazon
Ingrid Espinoza, conservation director at the Tompkins Foundation, told daily La Tercera that the Patagonian forests “as of Sept. 23, 2019, stored 6,608Mt of CO2, considering biomass and soil.”
Data also show that the Route of Parks stores up to 558t of CO2/ha, compared to average carbon storage in the Amazon of between 193.5 and 206.47t of CO2/ha.
Espinoza also said that “this means that the Route of the Parks is a key place to combat the climate crisis that we are experiencing.”
Promoted by the Tompkins Conservation Foundation, the 2,800km route comprises a conservation territory from Puerto Montt to Cabo de Hornos. It crosses three regions, 17 national parks, and 60 communities. After the Amazon, this territory has the highest carbon storage in South America.
Forests Contribution to Face the Environmental Crisis
In the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, many countries signed the Paris Agreement. In it, among other things, it was agreed to keep the rise in global average temperatures “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels,” by 2030.
Forests play a vital part in that endeavor. According to the Center for International Forestry Research, agroforestry, forest conservation, sustainable land management, and restoration of ecosystems “could provide 30-37% of the cost-effective emissions mitigation needed to meet the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5-2.0°C.”
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, forests are key to address the environmental crisis. “Approximately 2.6Bt of carbon dioxide, one-third of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels, is absorbed by forests every year.”
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant