Road transport carbon emissions and forest sequestration capacity in the region of Athens before and after forest fires
One important component of the urban contribution to carbon dioxide atmospheric emissions is road transport. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from urban road transport in the centre of Athens recorded over a period of five years (2000–2005) are compared with the carbon sequestration capacity of regional forests, prior to and after the devastating forest fires in Attica in 2007 and 2009, which is the administrative region of Athens. The comparison of carbon flow reveals two complementary aspects of the same socio-environmental issue: persistent sources versus weakening sinks for CO2 within a mixed (urban and rural) setting. Road transport emissions are calculated bottom-up using traffic data from in-situ measurements along segments of main roads. The sequestration capacity of forests is estimated by combining satellite images of changes in land cover with literature values of biomass growth rates. Over the study period, the per capita CO2 emissions averaged 0.72 t CO2/cap/year, which is four times higher than the sequestration capacity of forests before and six times higher after the fires. This imbalance highlights the inadequacy of the local carbon sink. Although there is no biogeochemical need to neutralise carbon budgets locally, defining the CO2 flows from urban activities and local ecosystems is likely to raise awareness and promote global environmental sustainability. The results are compared with top-down estimates of CO2 emissions at a regional scale, where suburban areas are dominant, and the differences are discussed in the light of local socioeconomic factors.
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