Forests take 2-4 years on average to return to normal growth and CO2 absorption, post-drought

July 31, 2015

Forests are sometimes called the lungs of the earth — they breathe in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and store it in tree trunks until the forest dies or burns. A new study, however, shows that forests devastated by drought may lose their ability to store carbon over a much longer period than previously thought, reducing their role as a buffer between humans’ carbon emissions and a changing climate.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science by a team of by researchers at the University of Utah and Princeton University, shows that the world’s forests take an average of between two and four years to return to their normal growth and carbon dioxide absorption rate following a severe drought — a finding that has significant climate implications.