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ITAPUÃ DO OESTE, Brazil (Reuters) – As the mid-morning temperature soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the machete-wielding scientists went into the Amazon, hacking through thick forest (38 C).

The tiny group of men and women, covered in sweat, saw and ripped the limbs of the trees from their limbs. They drilled into the field and poured paint on the trunks of trees.

Brazilian researchers are trying to learn how much carbon can be contained in various parts of the world’s largest rainforest in the trees about 90 km (55 miles) from the Rondônia state capital of Porto Velho, helping to reduce pollution from the atmosphere that encourage climate change.

“It’s important because we are losing forests globally,” said Carlos Roberto Sanquetta, a forestry engineering professor at the Federal University of Paraná in Brazil.

“We need to understand what is the role that forests play,” both in absorbing carbon when they are left intact and releasing it when they are destroyed.

In November, Sanquetta led the week-long research expedition, leading a team including a botanist, agronomist, biologist, and several other forestry engineers to take myriad plant samples for study – living and dead.

It’s intensive and elaborate work involving chainsaws, spades, corkscrews and calipers, sometimes in humid and insect-infested conditions.

“These are not white-coat scientists just lecturing people,” Raoni Rajão, who specializes in environmental management at the Federal University of Minas Gerais and is not involved with Sanquetta’s team. “These are hardworking people that get their hands dirty.”

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