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Human Activities Increasing Carbon Sequestration In Forests

June 14, 2007

Image: It was first recognized in the 1980s that human activities, by releasing unprecedented amounts of active nitrogen into the atmosphere, were not just altering the global nitrogen cycle but also causing the eutrophication of large parts of the biosphere, the researchers said in their report. Nitrogen - produced by automobile engines, factories, and intensive agriculture - is often a key, limiting nutrient in forests and other ecosystems.

Human-caused nitrogen deposition has been indirectly "fertilizing" forests, increasing their growth and sequestering major amounts of carbon, a new study in the journal Nature suggests
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The findings create a more complex view of the carbon cycle in forests, where it was already known that logging or other stand-replacement events -- whether natural or not -- create periods of 5-20 years when there is a net release of carbon dioxide from forests to the atmosphere, instead of sequestration as they do later on.
The end result is a highly variable forest carbon cycle that appears to be heavily influenced by the footprint of humans, one way or another. It's a complicated process with powerful driving forces that were poorly understood, said scientists from 10 institutions in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

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