Dense forest canopies prevent bright white snow sheets from reflecting sunlight back into space, a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has stated.

Moreover, US researchers have found that the canopies absorb sunlight that would otherwise have been reflected off the earth’s surface, further increasing the risk of global warming.

Traditional theories have stated that forests act as the “Earth’s air conditioner” by reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

“Carbon dioxide might be only half of the story; we also have to account for whether they help to reflect sunlight by producing clouds, or help to absorb it by shading snowy tundra,” said Ken Caldeira, from Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology.

However, the researchers behind the study have stated that they do not condone felling forests in snowy areas as it would be counterproductive to “saving natural ecosystems”.