Stop Global Warming—Chop Down Tropical Forests?


Something's rotten in Amazonia

All right, all right—the headline is a tad tendentious. However, researchers have long argued that tropical forests are absorbing a good bit of the extra carbon dioxide that humanity is producing by burning fossil fuels. An entire multi-billion dollar United Nations program, Reducing Emissions by Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), is premised on the idea that saving tropical forests from the axe will mitigate climate change. ScienceDaily is reporting a new study in Nature Climate Change which suggests that this process is not as simple as it seems. What's going on? Answer: Rotting leaves. 

The researchers used results from a six-year experiment in a rainforest at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, Central America, to study how increases in litterfall—dead plant material such as leaves, bark and twigs which fall to the ground—might affect carbon storage in the soil. Their results show that extra litterfall triggers an effect called 'priming' where fresh carbon from plant litter provides much-needed energy to micro-organisms, which then stimulates the decomposition of carbon stored in the soil.

Lead author Dr Emma Sayer from the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said, "Most estimates of the carbon sequestration capacity of tropical forests are based on measurements of tree growth. Our study demonstrates that interactions between plants and soil can have a massive impact on carbon cycling. Models of climate change must take these feedbacks into account to predict future atmospheric carbon dioxide levels."

The study concludes that a large proportion of the carbon sequestered by greater tree growth in tropical forests could be lost from the soil. The researchers estimate that a 30% increase in litterfall could release about 0.6 tonnes of carbon per hectare from lowland tropical forest soils each year. This amount of carbon is greater than estimates of the climate-induced increase in forest biomass carbon in Amazonia over recent decades. Given the vast land surface area covered by tropical forests and the large amount of carbon stored in the soil, this could affect the global carbon balance.

It's always something, isn't it? 

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  1. The climate stupidity is starting to resemble the nutrition stupidity at this point. “Coffee is bad for you! Now it’s good! Now it’s bad!” “Rainforests prevent global warming! No, now they cause it!”

    So. Fucking. Stupid.

    1. Stupid is the new chic Episiarch.

      1. Well, at least it’s an honest campaign, because only stupid douchebags wear Diesel. Diesel is to clothes what Axe is to body sprays.

        1. The science is settled! Consensus! etc. etc.

      2. You might be taking advertising a little too seriously.

    2. There’s a place called the rainforest
      That truly sucks ass;
      Let’s knock it all down
      And get rid of it fast!

      You say “Save the rainforest!”
      But what do you know?
      You’ve never been
      To the rainforest before!

      Getting Gay With Kids is here
      To tell you things you may not like to hear:
      You only fight these causes because caring sells,
      So all you activists can go f*** yourselves!

      Someday, if we work hard, boys and girls,
      There’ll be no more rainforests left in the entire world!

      Yeah, yeah!

      Getting Gay With Kids is here
      To spread the word and bring you cheer!


      Getting Gay With Kids is here!
      Let’s knock down the rainforests,
      What do you say?
      Being an activist is totally gay!

      It’s totally gay! It’s totally gay!

  2. Can’t we get some neighborhood kids to rake the leaves?

    1. Do they have the proper permits and licenses?

      1. too busy with the video games. I, however, am available, for $40 per acre.


  4. But, we have also run into a small inflation problem on account of the high level of leaf availability. Which means that I gather the current going rate has something like three major deciduous forests buying one ship’s peanut. So, um, in order to obviate this problem and effectively revalue the leaf, we are about to embark on an extensive defoliation campaign, and um, burn down all the forests. I think that’s a sensible move don’t you?

    1. I recall something similar to this from a Douglas Adams novel – I forget which one. Basically, he is on a planet where there are two types of humans – one seemingly intelligent but hopelessy stupid, the other primitive but selfless, egalitarian. Initially he belives that our own human race must have evolved from the primitive humans, but after watching the more advanced but stupid humans engage in certain activities – including adopting the leaf as thier preferred currency – he realizes to his horror that the opposite is true. I still remember reading that passage where Arthur Dent is perplexed why the advanced humans have stuffed thier clothes full of leaves, initially he thinks they’ve adopted this as some sort of insulation…

      1. From wiki

        Golgafrincham is a red semi-desert planet that is home of the Great Circling Poets of Arium and a species of particularly inspiring lichen. Its people decided it was time to rid themselves of an entire useless third of their population, and so the descendants of the Circling Poets concocted a story that their planet would shortly be destroyed in a great catastrophe. (It was apparently under threat from a “mutant star goat”). The useless third of the population (consisting of hairdressers, tired TV producers*, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, management consultants, telephone sanitisers and the like) were packed into the B-Ark, one of three puported giant Ark spaceships, and told that everyone else would follow shortly in the other two. The other two thirds of the population, of course, did not follow and “led full, rich and happy lives until they were all suddenly wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone”.

        The B-Ark was programmed to crash-land on a suitably remote planet on one of the outer spiral arms of the galaxy, which happened to be Earth, and the Golgafrinchan rejects gradually mingled with and usurped the native cavemen**, becoming the ancestors of humanity and thereby altering and distorting the course of the great experiment to find the question for the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, or so Ford Prefect presumes. A lot of them didn’t make it through the winter three years prior to Arthur Dent’s reunion with Ford Prefect, and the few who remained in the spring said they needed a holiday and set out on a raft. History says they must have survived.

        * Tired was a typo for Tri-D, but was left as is because D.A. thought there should be some tired TV producers too[citation needed].

        ** Arthur and the Golgafrinchans reflexively call the primitive Earth primates “cavemen”, despite Ford pointing out that they didn’t actually live in caves as such, to which one Golgafrinchan wittily replies “Maybe their caves are being remodeled”

  5. So slash & burn farming practices are carbon neutral? Henceforth, there is nothing that can convince me that anthrpoids have anything to do with climate change. Talk about jumping the fucking shark.

    1. “All right, all right — the headline is a tad tendentious.”

      1. Yeah, I’m turned up to 11 today. Not sure why.

  6. Between the lines: we are finding more and more variables that are not properly represented in climate change models.

    I have always figured two things:

    1. Human activities, like the activities of trees, fish, volcanoes, etc. have some impact on the climate.

    2. Models are interesting, but they are not remotely close to being capable of predicting climate, or the impact of changing the value of any given variable, on the system as a whole.

    1. But, but, but they’re experts!

  7. This study was clearly funded by Exxon… evil bastards!

  8. The Environment is killing the Environment!

    1. This is the Environment’s version of suicide by cop.

      1. you called

  9. Somebody needs to chop down that jpeg.

  10. There is no getting around it – we have to reduce our CO2 emissions. No other scheme is guaranteed to work.

    1. First, why don’t we try to figure out whether or not co2 has anything to do with climate. I haven’t seen anything close to convincing evidence up to this point.

      1. THERE’S NO TIME!!!

    2. And that scheme is guaranteed to work? BY whom? And what do we win if it doesn’t work?

      1. What do we win if it DOES?

    3. If “guaranteed to work” means “guaranteed to reduce our CO2 emissions”, I would have to agree.

      1. I see what you did there…


    1. And harp seals are laughing….

  12. I thought this was already understood about tropical forests. When you chop em down and try to farm, the nutrients get depleted immediately because the tropical forest was busy recycling it’s nutrients with constant foliage turnover. The effects on the carbon cycle are pretty obvious: the carbon isn’t locked up so much as spun, like mud under the wheel of a car stuck in a ditch.

    My bet is that conifers are much more efficient at sequestering.

    Libraries ftw.

  13. What’s going on? Answer: Rotting leaves.

    This isn’t novel. I remember it being suggested in the mid 90s that the rain forests were net producers of CO2 due to decaying plant matter. What’s old is new again, I guess.

  14. ScienceDaily is reporting a new study in Nature Climate Change which suggests that this process is not as simple as it seems.

    Not as simple as “Kill All The Humans”?

    Balderdash! Pish-posh and jaberwocky! No environmentalist worth his salt would consider such travesty!

  15. Burn them all and let Gaea sort them out?

  16. I vote for equilibrium. In a mature rain forest the carbon absorbed in making leaves in the trees balancing the carbon released by the leaf litter.

  17. Sounds like a good stimulus project to me: hire a bunch of unemployed people to go to Brazil and start vacuuming up all those leaves, then launch them into space.


  19. In the article in Nature magazine – which I felt I should read before commenting – we learn that the conclusions are based upon ‘experimentally’ increasing ‘litterfall’ to gauge the effect upon the soil. This means artificially damaging the forest enough that more of it ends up on the ground. It is quite remarkable the lengths that some will go to create ‘science’ that casts doubt upon Climate Change.

    1. “…we learn that the conclusions are based upon ‘experimentally’ increasing ‘litterfall’ to gauge the effect upon the soil. This means artificially damaging the forest enough that more of it ends up on the ground.”
      Yes, and how much of the forest was ‘artificially’ (as if man were something other than nature) ‘damaged’ in the experiment? I didn’t see anything in the article that made that clear.

      “It is quite remarkable the lengths that some will go to create ‘science’ that casts doubt upon Climate Change.”
      Equally remarkable the lengths mud-momma worshipers will go to promote their religion.

    2. Scientists that do experiments!?! What a travesty of Science!. They should be stopped. Science is done by consensus, as every Scientismist knows.

  20. Behold the flatulating power of my asshole and tremble.

  21. Any real scientist would know that carbon is an element which can’t possibly be decomposed by micro-organisms! Apparently the idiots responsible for this ridiculous report missed the secondary school class on photosynthesis: plants fix CO2, micro-organisms release it.
    Worse yet, they missed the obvious fact that the CO2 produced by plant litter is feeding the plant! There’s a very simple reason why N.America is a net carbon sink (see Oct. 1998 issue of Science): it’s the photosynthesis, stupid.

  22. Signs Bailey has reduced himself to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Sure he got “honest” about global warming but he’s still dangling this kind of thing out there, without putting it into perspective, as a sort of porn for the slackjawed anti-science folks posting e.g. “First, why don’t we try to figure out whether or not co2 has anything to do with climate” (and that’s the least rude of them) above.

    Reason should have put him out to pasture years ago–if nothing else, after the between-the-lines confession of dishonesty in his “(Alleged) Exxon-Mobil Whore” article.

    1. “a sort of porn for the slackjawed anti-science folks posting e.g. “First, why don’t we try to figure out whether or not co2 has anything to do with climate” (and that’s the least rude of them) above.”

      Aw, poor bleever gets his ass handed to him and then tries ‘offense’ for his shit.
      Sorry, Ben.

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