The Carnegie Institute for Science (CIS) has created a high-resolution map of Peru that identifies all of its carbon reserves on a hectare-by-hectare basis. This is the first time a country has been accurately carbon-mapped in its entirety.

From their map, CIS has concluded that the Peruvian Amazon stores almost seven billion metric tons of carbon stocks, which is more carbon than the United States emits in a year (5.38 billion tons, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration). The United States is the second-largest atmospheric polluter on Earth, after China.

The River Tigre in the Peruvian Amazon

The River Tigre in the Peruvian Amazon

The map was produced by integrating data from three-dimensional forest mapping with satellite images. Peru measures 128 million hectares in total; the Peruvian Amazon accounts for 60 percent of that area. Tropical forests absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into biomass, but when such forests are cleared, they not only decrease global carbon absorption, they also increase total carbon emissions.

A study published in the journal Global Change Biology calculates that 54 billion tonnes of carbon is released from forest degradation. Efforts to curb degradation and deforestation, undertaken by such countries as Brazil, have led to significant reductions in carbon emissions.

With an accurate map of its carbon reserves, Peru can now tell precisely how much carbon it is keeping out of the atmosphere, as well as how valuable its remaining land is.

“We found that nearly a billion metric tons of above-ground carbon stocks in Peru are at imminent risk of emission into the atmosphere due to land uses such as fossil fuel oil exploration, cattle ranching, oil palm plantations and gold mining,” Greg Asner, the study’s lead author, told the Guardian.

According to Asner, the majority of Peru’s carbon stocks are located in 10 parks and reserves. Though ostensibly off-limits to deforestation, only four of these areas enjoy fully-enforced protection.

According to the CIS study, their carbon-mapping process “is scalable to any tropical forest country.”

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