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Indigenous Lands Among the Amazon’s Last Carbon Sinks

Parts of the Amazon managed by Indigenous people removed more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they released, while areas not managed by Indigenous people saw widespread deforestation, producing more carbon dioxide than they removed, a report finds.

Researchers gauged how much carbon was gained or lost across the Amazon region, which spans parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. From 2001 to 2021, Indigenous lands in the Amazon were a net carbon sink, removing 340 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, more than the yearly fossil fuel emissions of the United Kingdom, according to the report from the World Resources Institute. Parts of the Amazon not managed by Indigenous people were a net carbon source, producing 270 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, roughly the yearly fossil fuel emissions of France.

The report found that forest loss in Brazil was the biggest factor driving emissions from the Amazon, as farming, cattle ranching, and logging have destroyed large swaths of the rainforest, releasing their stores of carbon. Indigenous forests were far better protected. The report calls on governments to support Indigenous efforts to guard their lands, and it urges international donors to channel more funds directly to Indigenous communities to support the protection of forests.

“We’re showing one of many reasons that forests controlled by Indigenous peoples should be valued,” David Gibbs, a researcher at the World Resources Institute and a coauthor of the report, told Inside Climate News. The findings, he said, add “to the list of reasons that we already have to help protect those communities.”

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