The study, published in the journal Nature, has involved more than 200 researchers around the world. They have used several different methods to measure the forest's carbon uptake. But the results assume that we also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the researchers, partly because climate change can affect the forests' ability to absorb carbon.

Existing forests are an important solution

The researchers estimate that about 60 percent of the carbon can be absorbed by preserving and caring for forests that exist today. The remaining carbon is estimated to be collected by restoring forests in areas with little human impact.

The fact that forests are rich in biodiversity is also crucial for forests to be able to store as much carbon as possible, the researchers write. Stig-Olof Holm, senior lecturer in ecology at Umeå University, believes that forests with low diversity are less resilient to climate change.

"These forests become more sensitive to insect attacks, fungal attacks, fires and so on as the climate becomes warmer and more humid.

Great opportunity to store more carbon in Swedish forests

Stig-Olof Holm says that the study is of great concern to Sweden because we have a lot of forest here compared to many other countries in the world.

"We have enormous potential to increase carbon sequestration in Sweden by reducing deforestation, primarily of older mixed forests, which have higher diversity.

He says that deforestation has increased in recent years in Sweden. Today, the productive forest land in the country is managed by felling forests and planting new trees. The growing forest binds carbon dioxide. Therefore, it can be seen as carbon neutral, according to the forest industry, for example. But Stig-Olof Holm thinks that the forest that is planted after a felling grows back so slowly that we should instead count felling as emissions.

"It takes up to 100 years for the forest to bind back the carbon. It will therefore be far too late if we are to meet the Paris Agreement and reach net zero emissions by 2050, as almost all of the emissions will remain in the atmosphere by then, he says.