New York News
- A new report says forests managed by Indigenous communities tend to be carbon sinks rather than carbon sources, while areas under different management are often less predictable.
- Areas of the Amazon titled or under formal claim by Indigenous people have been some of the most secure and reliable net carbon sinks over the past two decades, sequestering more carbon than they’ve emitted.
- But Indigenous communities are feeling increasing outside pressure from economic development projects, one reason the report argues that Indigenous-managed forests must be secured.
Some of the last remaining carbon sinks in the Amazon Rainforest are largely managed by Indigenous people, a new report from the World Resources Institute says.
In areas of the Amazon managed by Indigenous communities, forests tend to be carbon sinks rather than carbon sources, while areas under different management tend to have already passed their tipping point — yet another reason why Indigenous communities are so vital to forest conservation, the report says.
“As more forests are lost and converted to other uses, Indigenous and other community forests stand out as stable carbon sinks that must be secured,” it says. “Should community forests be degraded or lost, large stocks of carbon would be released into the atmosphere and the lands would no longer be able to sequester the same amount of carbon.”
Sequestering carbon is one of the main strategies for capping the global temperature rise at less than 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Experts warn that the Amazon is on the verge of “tipping over” from being a net sink to a net source, making the global temperature goal much more difficult to achieve, if not impossible.
Areas of the Amazon managed by Indigenous people with documented or formal land claims have been some of the most secure and reliable net carbon sinks over the past two decades, the report says, meaning they’ve sequestered more carbon than they’ve emitted. Between 2001 and 2021, they emitted around 120 million metric tons of CO2 annually while removing 460 million metric tons, a net total of 340 million metric tons removed.
That’s equivalent to the U.K.’s annual fossil fuel emissions.
Meanwhile, areas under different kinds of management have tended to be net carbon sources.
“The lands outside of Indigenous territories in the Amazon are actually a source now, and that includes the non-Indigenous protected areas,” said report co-author Peter Veit, director of WRI’s Land and Resource Rights Initiative.
Veit and co-author David Gibbs, a geographic information system (GIS) research associate at WRI, initially wondered if Indigenous-managed forests were net carbon sinks because they’re more efficient than forests outside Indigenous lands at capturing carbon dioxide. But it turns out both types of forest are equally efficient at capturing carbon dioxide, and what sets Indigenous-managed ones apart is the managers’ ability to stave off deforestation.
“Indigenous people can sustainably steward their forests by reducing emissions from deforestation,” Gibbs said. “It’s yet more evidence of the contributions