Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Asynchronous Carbon Sink Saturation in African and Amazonian Tropical Forests

Hubau, Wannes; Lewis, Simon L.; Phillips, Oliver L.; Affum-Baffoe, Kofi; Beeckman, Hans; Cun?-Sanchez, Aida; Daniels, Armandu K.; Ewango, Corneille E. N.; Fauset, Sophie; Mukinzi, Jacques M.; Sheil, Douglas; Sonk?, Bonaventure; Sullivan, Martin J. P.; Sunderland, Terry C. H.; Taedoumg, Hermann; Thomas, Sean C.; White, Lee J .T.; Abernethy, Katharine A.; Adu-Bredu, Stephen; Amani, Christian A.; Baker, Timothy R.; Banin, Lindsay F.; Baya, Fid?le; Begne, Serge K.; Bennett, Amy C.; Benedet, Fabrice; Bitariho, Robert; Bocko, Yannick E.; Boeckx, Pascal; Boundja, Patrick; Brienen, Roel J. W.; Brncic, Terry; Chezeaux, Eric; Chuyong, George B.; Clark, Connie J.; Collins, Murray; Comiskey, James A.; Coomes, David A.; Dargie, Greta C.; De Haulleville, Thales; Djuikouo K., Marie Noel; Doucet, Jean-Louis; Esquivel-Muelbert, Adriane; Feldpausch, Ted R.; Fofanah, Alusine; Foli, Ernest G.; Gilpin, Martin; Gloor, Emanuel; Gonmadje, Christelle; Gourlet-Fleury, Sylvie; Hall, Jefferson S.; Hamilton, Alan...


Wannes Hubau

Simon L. Lewis

Oliver L. Phillips

Kofi Affum-Baffoe

Hans Beeckman


Armandu K. Daniels

Corneille E. N. Ewango

Sophie Fauset

Jacques M. Mukinzi

Douglas Sheil


Martin J. P. Sullivan

Terry C. H. Sunderland

Hermann Taedoumg

Sean C. Thomas

Lee J .T. White

Katharine A. Abernethy

Stephen Adu-Bredu

Christian A. Amani

Timothy R. Baker

Lindsay F. Banin


Serge K. Begne

Amy C. Bennett

Fabrice Benedet

Robert Bitariho

Yannick E. Bocko

Pascal Boeckx

Patrick Boundja

Roel J. W. Brienen

Terry Brncic

Eric Chezeaux

George B. Chuyong

Connie J. Clark

Murray Collins

James A. Comiskey

David A. Coomes

Greta C. Dargie

Thales De Haulleville

Marie Noel Djuikouo K.

Jean-Louis Doucet

Adriane Esquivel-Muelbert

Ted R. Feldpausch

Alusine Fofanah

Ernest G. Foli

Martin Gilpin

Emanuel Gloor

Christelle Gonmadje

Sylvie Gourlet-Fleury

Jefferson S. Hall

Alan C. Hamilton

David J. Harris

Terese B. Hart

Mireille B. N. Hockemba

Annette Hladik

Suspense A. Ifo

Kathryn J. Jeffery

Tommaso Jucker

Emmanuel Kasongo Yakusu

Elizabeth Kearsley

David Kenfack

Alexander Koch

Miguel E. Leal

Aurora Levesley

Jeremy A. Lindsell

Janvier Lisingo

Gabriela Lopez-Gonzalez

Jon C. Lovett

Jean-Remy Makana

Yadvinder Malhi

Andrew R. Marshall

Jim Martin

Emanuel H. Martin

Faustin M. Mbayu

Vincent P. Medjibe

Natacha Nssi Bengone

Vianet Mihindou

Edward T.A. Mitchard

Sam Moore

Pantaleo K.T. Munishi

Lucas Ojo

Fidele Evouna Ondo

Kelvin Peh

Georgia C. Pickavance

Axel D. Poulsen

John R. Poulsen

Lan Qie

Jan Reitsma

Francesco Rovero

Michael D. Swaine

Joey Talbot

James Taplin

David M. Taylor

Duncan W. Thomas

Benjamin Toirambe

John Tshibamba Mukendi

Darlington Tuagben

Peter M. Umunay

Hans Verbeeck

Jason Vleminckx

Simon Willcock

Hannsjoerg Woell

John T. Woods

Lise Zemagho


© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. Structurally intact tropical forests sequestered about half of the global terrestrial carbon uptake over the 1990s and early 2000s, removing about 15 per cent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions1–3. Climate-driven vegetation models typically predict that this tropical forest ‘carbon sink’ will continue for decades4,5. Here we assess trends in the carbon sink using 244 structurally intact African tropical forests spanning 11 countries, compare them with 321 published plots from Amazonia and investigate the underlying drivers of the trends. The carbon sink in live aboveground biomass in intact African tropical forests has been stable for the three decades to 2015, at 0.66 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year (95 per cent confidence interval 0.53–0.79), in contrast to the long-term decline in Amazonian forests6. Therefore the carbon sink responses of Earth’s two largest expanses of tropical forest have diverged. The difference is largely driven by carbon losses from tree mortality, with no detectable multi-decadal trend in Africa and a long-term increase in Amazonia. Both continents show increasing tree growth, consistent with the expected net effect of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and air temperature7–9. Despite the past stability of the African carbon sink, our most intensively monitored plotssuggest a post-2010 increase in carbon losses, delayed compared to Amazonia, indicating asynchronous carbon sink saturation on the two continents. A statistical model including carbon dioxide, temperature, drought and forest dynamics accounts for the observed trends and indicates a long-term future decline in the African sink, whereas the Amazonian sink continues to weaken rapidly. Overall, the uptake of carbon into Earth’s intact tropical forests peaked in the 1990s. Given that the global terrestrial carbon sink is increasing in size, independent observations indicating greater recent carbon uptake into the Northern Hemisphere landmass10 reinforce our conclusion that the intact tropical forest carbon sink has already peaked. This saturation and ongoing decline of the tropical forest carbon sink has consequences for policies intended to stabilize Earth’s climate.


Hubau, W., Lewis, S. L., Phillips, O. L., Affum-Baffoe, K., Beeckman, H., Cuní-Sanchez, A., …Zemagho, L. (2020). Asynchronous Carbon Sink Saturation in African and Amazonian Tropical Forests. Nature, 579(7797), 80-87.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 19, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 4, 2020
Publication Date Mar 4, 2020
Deposit Date Jan 13, 2020
Publicly Available Date Sep 5, 2020
Journal Nature
Print ISSN 0028-0836
Electronic ISSN 1476-4687
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 579
Issue 7797
Pages 80-87
Keywords Multidisciplinary
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations