Normally, pine forests take in CO2 through their branches, and then respire CO2 through the soil. Because these forests absorb more CO2 than they respire we refer to them as “carbon sinks.” Changes in the ecosystem are disrupting this, however. A huge pine beetle infestation in the Rocky Mountains has killed off many of the largest pine forests, removing the ability of these forests to absorb CO2, but leaving behind the organic matter and microbes responsible for the respiration and release of CO2. A diverse team of researchers based out of the University of Colorado is examining just what effect the death of these trees may have on the global CO2 budget.

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