The first ever scientific assessment of the amounts of greenhouse gases emitted from and absorbed by forests in UNESCO World Heritage sites has found that forests in World Heritage sites play a vital role in mitigating climate change by absorbing 190 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. However, ten forests released more carbon than they sequestered due to pressure from human activity and climate change, which is alarming.

By combining satellite-derived data with monitoring information at the site level, researchers at UNESCO, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) were able to estimate the gross and net carbon absorbed and emitted by UNESCO World Heritage forests between 2001 and 2020 and determine the causes of some emissions.

The research found that, as a whole, UNESCO World Heritage forests in 257 separate sites, absorbed the equivalent of approximately 190 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year, comparable to roughly half the United Kingdom’s annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

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