by John Upton
Within the botanical menagerie that makes up the Amazon rainforest, which is so important it’s frequently dubbed the “lungs of the planet,” scientists have pinpointed a small number of tree species that are doing the heaviest breathing as they help to slow global warming.
Their discovery — that 182 species store half the rainforest’s woodbound carbon — suggests that the future of the world’s climate, and the contours of its coastal areas, are intertwined with the fate of this small portion of an estimated 16,000 Amazonian tree species.
Despite ongoing logging and recent drought, the Amazon is home to perhaps a sixth of the carbon stored in living vegetation the world over, helping to keep levels of climate-changing carbon dioxide down in the atmosphere.
“The Amazon is a massively important carbon stock, and it’s currently acting as a carbon sink,” Leeds University’s Sophie Fauset, who led the research, said. “What we’re trying to do is increase our understanding of where this carbon is going; which trees are storing it.”