Climate Protection: Land Use Alterations Diminish the Carbon Sink’s Capacity

Terrestrial carbon sinks play a vital role in mitigating the impacts of the greenhouse effect. In a collaborative effort, scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and partnering research institutions analyzed multiple data sources and determined that the primary storage of carbon in Europe is located in the surface biomass of Eastern Europe.

However, this significant carbon sink has experienced a decline, primarily due to changes in land use. This finding was recently documented in the journal, Communications Earth & Environment.

Forests possess the remarkable ability to capture vast amounts of carbon on terrestrial surfaces. They play a pivotal role in reducing the overall emissions of greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, certain regions, especially in Eastern Europe, still lack comprehensive data. The region has a sparse network of monitoring stations, resulting in limited knowledge about the movement of carbon and its influencing factors. “Eastern European forests hold immense potential as enduring carbon sinks,” remarks Karina Winkler of the Atmospheric Environmental Research Department at KIT’s Campus Alpine in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. She further emphasizes that the political shifts in Eastern Europe have initiated significant changes in land use patterns. Alongside these changes, the climate has also been affecting the forests. “This interplay between socioeconomic factors and climatic changes directly impacts carbon sinks,” she adds.

The study encompassed a vast region, spanning 13 countries—from Poland in the West, extending to the Russian Ural Mountains in the East, and from the Kola Peninsula in the North down to Romania in the South. The research team based their calculations on various data sources, including computational models, satellite-generated biomass estimates, forest audits, and national statistics.

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