CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A new study estimates that ecosystems in the western U.S. absorb and contain nearly 100 million tons of atmospheric carbon each year.

The Interior Department said Thursday that's nearly 5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, ecosystems in the West help to offset the air pollution that contributes to climate change.

The study authored by U.S. Geological Survey scientists is part of a congressionally mandated national assessment of how ecosystems capture and contain carbon from the atmosphere.

The scientists studied ecosystems covering just over 1 million square miles including the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mojave and Sonoran deserts, Great Basin, and Pacific Northwest forests.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Hayes says the study will help federal land managers be more effective stewards of the land.

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