03 Aug 2020

03 Aug 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Carbon Emissions and Removals by Forests: New Estimates 1990–2020

Francesco N. Tubiello1, Anssi Pekkarinen2, Lars Marklund2, Nathan Wanner1, Giulia Conchedda1, Sandro Federici3, Simone Rossi4, and Giacomo Grassi4 Francesco N. Tubiello et al.
  • 1Statistics Division, FAO, Rome, 00153, Italy
  • 2Forestry Division, FAO, Rome, 00153, Italy
  • 3IPCC Task Force on National GHG Inventories, IGES, Hayama, 240-0112, Japan
  • 4EU Joint Research Center, Ispra, 21027, Italy

Abstract. Trends in global, regional and national CO2 emissions and removals from forest for the period 1990–2020, are estimated for the first time using data from the Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2020, providing new information with respect to the previous FRA 2015. Estimates indicate significant reduction of deforestation emissions over the study period, albeit more slowly than previously assessed, from an average of 4.3 Gt CO2 yr−1 during 1991–2000, to an average of 2.9 Gt CO2 yr−1 during 2016–2020. Remaining forest land was a significant net carbon sink globally and over the entire period, albeit decreasing in strength, from −3.4 Gt CO2 yr−1 in 1991–2000 to −2.5 Gt CO2 yr−1 during 2016–2020. The overall net contribution of forests to atmospheric CO2(i.e., the combined effect of deforestation and forest emissions/removals) was an overall emission source of roughly 0.4 Gt CO2 yr−1 on average during 1991–2020, more than one-third less than previously estimated. Remarkably, the new data also suggest an overall net sink of about −0.7 Gt CO2 yr−1 during 2011–2015, never reported before. Forest emissions/removals data independently reported by countries to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change were in excellent agreement with the FAO estimates over the entire period 1990–2020, confirming a large sink on forest land estimated for 2011–2015. Data are made available as open access via the Zenodo portal (Tubiello, 2020), with DOI 10.5281/zenodo.3941973.

Francesco N. Tubiello et al.

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Francesco N. Tubiello et al.

Data sets

FAOSTAT Forest Land Emissions F. N. Tubiello

Francesco N. Tubiello et al.


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Short summary
This paper presents the first estimates of forest carbon fluxes (emissions and removals) based on the recently released FRA 2020 data. Results are disseminated in FAOSTAT. Deforestation emissions have continued to decrease up to 2020, to 2.9 billion tonnes CO2 annually, with remaining forests functioning as a sink (−2.5 billion tonnes CO2). Results show that in the period 2011–2015, the net effect of deforestation losses and carbon gains due to forest regrowth was a net overall carbon sink.