Harvesting carbon data in the Panama Canal Watershed

Old growth tropical forests are closely monitored for their relevance to Earth’s changing climate. Secondary forests in the tropics are much less studied. STRI staff scientist Jefferson Hall says this needs to change. As human populations grow, secondary forests will be relied upon more than ever to provide ecosystem services, including carbon capture.

STRI established the Panama Canal Watershed Project, a 700-hectare outdoor laboratory, to increase understanding of secondary forests in the tropics. Directed by Hall, the project is located in one of the most commercially important watersheds in the world as a conduit to four percent of global maritime trade.

One of the experiment’s many goals is to help reduce the uncertainty surrounding forest carbon stocks in young forests. "Secondary forests are a major terrestrial carbon sink," wrote Hall as a co-author in a study that helped improve carbon stock estimates in secondary forests. "And reliable estimates of their carbon stocks are pivotal for understanding the global carbon balance and initiatives to mitigate CO2 emissions through forest management and reforestation."

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