Article open access publication

Carbon sequestration potential of second-growth forest regeneration in the Latin American tropics

Science Advances, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), ISSN 2375-2548

Volume 2, 5, 2016

DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1501639, Dimensions: pub.1062440046, PMC: PMC4928921, PMID: 27386528,


Rozendaal, Danaë M A (2) (4) (5)
Craven, Dylan (10) (11) (12)
Dent, Daisy H. (12) (16)
Lohbeck, Madelon (5) (25)
Muscarella, Robert (26) (27)
Ruíz, Jorge (30) (31)
van Breugel, Michiel (12) (34) (35)
van der Wal, Hans (14) (36)



  1. (1) International Institute for Sustainability, Estrada Dona Castorina 124, Rio de Janeiro, CEP 22460-320, Brazil
  2. (2) University of Connecticut, grid.63054.34
  3. (3) University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, grid.411015.0
  4. (4) University of Regina, grid.57926.3f
  5. (5) Wageningen University & Research, grid.4818.5
  6. (6) University of Puerto Rico System, grid.267033.3
  7. (7) National Autonomous University of Mexico, grid.9486.3
  8. (8) Brown University, grid.40263.33
  9. (9) University of Sao Paulo, grid.11899.38
  10. (10) German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, grid.421064.5
  11. (11) Leipzig University, grid.9647.c
  12. (12) Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, grid.438006.9
  13. (13) Federal University of Pernambuco, grid.411227.3
  14. (14) El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, grid.466631.0
  15. (15) Tulane University, grid.265219.b
  16. (16) University of Stirling, grid.11918.30
  17. (17) Clemson University, grid.26090.3d
  18. (18) Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, grid.418270.8
  19. (19) University of Alberta, grid.17089.37
  20. (20) Montes Claros State University, grid.412322.4
  21. (21) Fondo Patrimonio Natural para la Biodiversidad y Areas Protegidas, Calle 72 No. 12-65 piso 6, 110231 Bogota, Colombia
  22. (22) National Institute of Amazonian Research, grid.419220.c
  23. (23) Colorado Mesa University, grid.419760.d
  24. (24) Purchase College, grid.264276.3
  25. (25) World Agroforestry Centre, grid.435643.3
  26. (26) Aarhus University, grid.7048.b, AU
  27. (27) Columbia University, grid.21729.3f
  28. (28) Federal University of Bahia, grid.8399.b
  29. (29) University of Minnesota, grid.17635.36
  30. (30) Pedagogical and Technological University of Colombia, grid.442071.4
  31. (31) University of California, Santa Barbara, grid.133342.4
  32. (32) Cr 5 No 14-05, P.O. Box 412, Cota, Cundinamarca, Colombia
  33. (33) University of Maryland, College Park, grid.164295.d
  34. (34) National University of Singapore, grid.4280.e
  35. (35) Yale-NUS College, grid.463064.3
  36. (36) University of Amsterdam, grid.7177.6
  37. (37) Bonhoeffer College, Bruggertstraat 60, 7545 AX Enschede, Netherlands
  38. (38) Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, grid.452671.3
  39. (39) Louisiana State University, grid.64337.35


Regrowth of tropical secondary forests following complete or nearly complete removal of forest vegetation actively stores carbon in aboveground biomass, partially counterbalancing carbon emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, burning of fossil fuels, and other anthropogenic sources. We estimate the age and spatial extent of lowland second-growth forests in the Latin American tropics and model their potential aboveground carbon accumulation over four decades. Our model shows that, in 2008, second-growth forests (1 to 60 years old) covered 2.4 million km(2) of land (28.1% of the total study area). Over 40 years, these lands can potentially accumulate a total aboveground carbon stock of 8.48 Pg C (petagrams of carbon) in aboveground biomass via low-cost natural regeneration or assisted regeneration, corresponding to a total CO2 sequestration of 31.09 Pg CO2. This total is equivalent to carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and industrial processes in all of Latin America and the Caribbean from 1993 to 2014. Ten countries account for 95% of this carbon storage potential, led by Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Venezuela. We model future land-use scenarios to guide national carbon mitigation policies. Permitting natural regeneration on 40% of lowland pastures potentially stores an additional 2.0 Pg C over 40 years. Our study provides information and maps to guide national-level forest-based carbon mitigation plans on the basis of estimated rates of natural regeneration and pasture abandonment. Coupled with avoided deforestation and sustainable forest management, natural regeneration of second-growth forests provides a low-cost mechanism that yields a high carbon sequestration potential with multiple benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services.


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Times Cited: 172

Field Citation Ratio (FCR): 46.53

Relative Citation ratio (RCR): 3.91

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