According to the scientists, these findings indicate the carbon emissions forests take in are underestimated, but may diminish as the effects of climate change become more severe.
According to one of the studies the scientists conducted, trees on the edge of forests grow nearly twice as fast as trees on the interior of the forest, which increases the outer trees’ potential to serve as a carbon sink.
Another study they conducted looked at the soils at the edge of forests, and it found a significant difference between rural and urban soils. In rural areas, the warmer temperatures (compared to the interior of the forest) caused microorganisms to work harder at breaking down organic matter such as leaves, which resulted in more carbon dioxide being released on the outside edge of the forest than on the interior. But in urban areas, the soils on the edge of urban forests didn’t release as much carbon as their equivalents in rural areas. According to the scientists, it’s too hot and dry in urban areas for carbon dioxide-releasing microbes to prosper.
These findings suggest the conservation value of forest fragments should be reassessed.
The IFA recently introduced its “Forests for Indy” strategy for protecting the city’s urban forests, which cover about 59 square miles. According to the IFA, 9 square miles of urban forest are within city property and protected by city ordinances. But the other 50 square miles are privately owned and at risk of being developed. The committee will meet again this month (April 2022) to discuss possible solutions to this problem, to figure out a way for the city council to act to protect existing urban forests as well as plant new ones.