The research, published in the journal Nature, challenges long-standing assumptions that virgin tropical forests untouched by logging or industry do a better job of sopping up carbon dioxide and, in so doing, slowing the pace of global warming.

It is also good news because it means regenerating tropic forests could play a even greater role in fighting climate change than previously suspected.

“Carbon uptake is surprisingly fast in these young forests that regrow on abandoned pastures or abandoned agricultural fields," said Lourens Poorter, lead author of the study and a professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
    
After only two decades, recovering tropical forests in Latin America built up, on average, more than 120 tonnes of biomass per hectare (2.5 acres), and were able to remove three tonnes of carbon per hectare per year from the atmosphere.
    
"That is 11 times the uptake rate of old-growth forests," Poorter said in a statement.
    
Forests are a major bulkhead against climate change because plants -- mostly in the tropics -- soak up nearly 30 percent of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide humans pour into the air.
    
Oceans are another so-called 'sink' for CO2, with the rest remaining in the atmosphere.
    
Deforestation is a double threat: Trees release stored-upCO2 when cut down, and reducing the surface area covered by forests means fewer plants are left to absorb it in the first place.

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