June 16, 2009 07:08am
Australian forests are the world's best at storing carbon, a key weapon against climate change, researchers say.
All trees absorb carbon dioxide and store it as they grow, but some forests lock up more carbon than others.
The Australian National University scientists measured 132 forests around the planet and found that mountain ash forests in Victoria's central highlands were the most carbon-dense of all.
Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is one of the main causes of climate change.
Victoria's forests were so rich in carbon because they lived in a cool climate, which slowed down the decay of the trees, the researchers said.
The trees were very old - up to 350 years of age - which meant they grew heavy, dense wood, and the forests had not been logged.
Researcher Brendan Mackey said it had been thought that tropical forests were the richest in carbon.
"This is a real surprise ... instead its forests in the temperate region that have the most," Prof Mackey said.
The research is published this week in the US-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."