Patagonia’s Route of Parks: a Crucial Carbon Sink in South America

The 17 national parks located between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn store about 30% of the total carbon found in the soil and biomass in all of Chile. As one of the principal concentrations of carbon storage in South America, it’s crucial to the mitigation of global climate change.  

With its 11.8 million hectares protected as a national park, The Route of Parks of Patagonia is one of the richest carbon sinks in South America. According to data from the National Geographic Society, the 17 parks between Puerto Montt and Cape Horn store 6,608 million metric tons of carbon, which is equivalent to almost 30% of the total carbon in the soil and biomass in all of Chile. With 26 thousand metric tons per square kilometer, Chile is the second country with the highest total carbon density in South America, after Colombia, which registers 26.5 thousand metric tons per square kilometer.

Steven P. Brumby, Senior Advisor for Data Visualization of National Geographic Society, highlights: “The international Paris Agreement requests each country contribute climate actions to limit global warming to less than between 1.5 and 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. The 6,608 million metric tonnes of soil and biomass carbon stored in the Park Route equals almost 30% of the total soil and biomass carbon in all of Chile (22.3 billion metric tonnes). Preserving this soil and biomass carbon protected in the Park Route from conversion and emission into the atmosphere makes an ambitious, achievable contribution towards Chile’s international action to limit global warming”.

The data provided by the National Geographic Society, using scientific data provided by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Center, show the carbon stored up to September 2019, taking into account carbon found in both biomass and soil. In the Route of Parks, the greatest contribution is made by carbon stored in the soil, in part due to the decomposition processes of organic matter, which take place at a slower rate in this territory due to low temperatures.

Ingrid Espinoza, the Director of Conservation at Tompkins Conservation Chile, highlighted: “The information provided by the National Geographic Society is very relevant since it allows us to understand what to protect, how to protect it, what our protection objectives should be and how to assess regions that are already protected.” Likewise, she explained, “the data indicates that, on average, each hectare of The Route of Parks stores 558 tons of carbon. If we compare this figure with other studies, it can be concluded that the Ruta de los Parks stores almost three times more carbon per hectare than the forests of the Amazon, taking into account the biomass and soil of the forests.”

Forests play a decisive role in determining the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as they act as carbon sinks, absorbing CO2 and incorporating it into their structure through photosynthesis. National parks ensure permanent carbon capture. Faced with an adverse scenario, where carbon dioxide emissions advance, deforestation and changes in land use increase, the protection of the Route of Parks provides an important green space for the world. Its role becomes more urgent as it counteracts the effects of climate change and helps to reverse the global species extinction crisis.





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