Aug. 13 (UPI) -- New analysis of satellite data suggests between 1 and 1.5 billion tons of carbon emissions is emitted from northern tropical Africa each year.
The latest research, published this week in the journal Nature Communications, suggests land use changes and drought have degraded the region's soil, leading to the release of large quantities of stored carbon.
However, scientists say soil degradation alone isn't responsible for the region's carbon emissions. To identify other sources of released carbon, study authors suggest more research is necessary.
Scientists quantified the land's contribution to global emissions by analyzing data collected by the Japanese Space Agency's Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite and NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory.
Researchers compared the satellite observations with the carbon emissions predictions produced by atmospheric models designed to simulate the effects of land use changes, precipitation totals, fire patterns and shifts in photosynthesis levels.
"The tropics are home to one-third of Earth's three billion trees and their stored carbon, and yet we are only scratching the surface of understanding how they are responding to changes in climate," Paul Palmer, professor of geosciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said in a news release. "We anticipate that satellite data will continue to improve that situation."
The latest research comes on the heels of a pair of studies that highlighted the effect of land use on climate change.
Last week, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report warning that land use and dietary changes were necessary to halt climate change. And this week, research published in the journal Global Environmental Change showed increases in meat and dairy production corresponds with land clearing in the tropics.