Using air samples collected by plane, scientists from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in America have claimed that northern forests absorb only 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, not the 2.4 billion tonnes previosuly thought, and that the shortfall is being picked up by tropical rainforests.

In addition, the research team has said that the amount of carbon dioxide being produced by the removal of tropical forests is far less than the original estimate of 1.8 billion tonnes.

“Our results indicate that intact tropical ecosystems are taking up a large amount of carbon,” said Britton Stephens, who led the study. “They are helping to offset industrial carbon emissions and the atmospheric impacts of clearing land more than we realised.”