Climate change could get worse because insects like termites will eat more dead woods as temperatures rise and release more carbon into the air, study says
- Rotting wood eaten by termites and longhorn beetles will increase atmospheric carbon levels, making climate change worse
- These insects produce 29% carbon from dead wood each year, but it was higher in areas like the tropics
- Tropical forests contribute 93% of all carbon released through dead wood
- Rotting wood releases more than 10 gigatons of carbon each year, or 115% of carbon emissions from fossil fuels
Climate change could intensify if insects such as termites and longhorn beetles feed on dead forests, resulting in the release of “more than 10 gigatons of carbon” into the atmosphere each year, a new study suggests.
Researchers from Australia’s Griffith University and the Australian National University said these types of insects respond to 29 percent of the carbon from dead wood each year, but it was higher in areas like the tropics, where temperatures are higher.
Rotting wood releases more than 10 gigatons of carbon each year, or 115 percent of carbon emissions from fossil fuels, said Dr. Marisa Stone in a pronunciation.
Rotting wood eaten by termites and longhorn beetles will increase atmospheric carbon levels, making climate change worse
These insects (Longicorn beetles, pictured) cause 29% carbon from dead wood each year, but in areas like the tropics it was higher
The researchers looked at more than 140 species of trees in 55 forest areas on six continents to arrive at their findings.
They put half of the dead wood in wire mesh cages to keep the insects out to determine the degree of decay they add and found that it was “highly dependent on the climate and will increase as the temperature rises,” David Lindenmayer, a researcher. study co-author of the Australian University, said.
“Higher precipitation speeds up decomposition in warmer regions and slows it down in lower temperature regions.”
Tropical forests contribute 93 percent of all carbon released from dead wood because they have a high mass and decay quickly.
Should insects increase in number, and given that there is a chance they will destroy crops in North America and Europe if temperatures rise, there is a chance that additional carbon will be released into the atmosphere.
“We also knew that the decomposition of dead wood cannot take place without wood-boring insects such as termites and wood-boring longhorn beetles,” Stone added.
The researchers put half of the dead wood in wire mesh cages to keep the insects out to determine the amount of decay they add and found it was “highly dependent on climate and will increase as temperatures rise.”
“But what we didn’t know was how much they can accelerate decomposition and how much they contribute to global carbon emissions.”
Study co-author Kurt Nisbet is concerned that since there is a “much greater” amount of carbon in dead wood, especially in cooler climates, than is released each year, the impact could be catastrophic.
“These estimates are the first step in predicting the role of dead wood in the carbon cycle,” Nisbet added.
Rotting wood releases more than 10 gigatons of carbon each year, or 115% of carbon emissions from fossil fuels
The study’s lead author, Dr Sebastian Seibold, said the study emphasizes “climate change and insect loss have the potential to alter wood degradation, and therefore carbon and nutrient cycles worldwide.”
“We’ve known for a long time that living trees capture and absorb carbon from the atmosphere,” Stone added.
‘But until now little was known about the role that dead trees played in the carbon cycle.’
The research was published earlier this week in the scientific journal Nature.
THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals in terms of reducing emissions:
1) A long-term goal to keep the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels
2) Strive to limit the increase to 1.5°C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change
3) Governments agreed on the need to peak global emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that it will take longer for developing countries
4) To then make rapid reductions in accordance with the best available science