Study: US West forest fires release less carbon than thought

Photos: 243 Fire burns over 18,000 acres in Grant County
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The 243 Fire has burned over 18,000 acres in Grant County. 

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Researchers at the University of Idaho say the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere from forest fires in the U.S. West is being greatly overestimated, possibly leading to poor land management decisions.

Researchers in the study published last week in the journal Global Change Biology say many estimates are 59% to 83% higher than what is found based on field observations.

Healthy forests are carbon sinks, with trees absorbing carbon and reducing the amount in the atmosphere contributing to global warming.

The researchers say it’s important to correct overestimates of carbon released during forest fires because federal and local governments use such estimates when making land management decisions for activities such as logging.