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As Sustainability Times wrote, the planet has been losing much of its forest cover, especially in tropical regions. Over the past three decades, some 420 million hectares of forest have been lost worldwide through deforestation. But deforestation along with numerous other environmental stresses have affected forests in a multitude of ways. Anew global analysis reveals the average tree size of remaining forests is dramatically smaller–meaning that we’re losing old-growth forests.
A primary reason for this, according to researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who conducted the analysis, is that rising temperatures and growing levels of atmospheric CO2 have been altering the world’s forests through a process called carbon dioxide fertilization. Over the past decades, the age of most forests has declined dramatically
Why This Matters: As CNBC explained, the loss of old-growth forests means that forests now not only have less capacity to store carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels but they are also unable to host certain species that normally reside there. This also means that efforts to plants billions of trees cannot be thought of as a silver bullet to curbing climate change, we must work to conserve existing forests and work to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions.
Biodiversity Implications: CNBC also noted that 80% of the world’s land-based species live in forests, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Widespread tree mortality and deforestation has disrupted the habitats of now critically endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan.
“Increasing rates of tree mortality driven by climate and land-use change — combined with uncertainty in the mix of species that will form the next generation — pose big challenges for conservationists and forest managers alike,” said Tom Pugh, a scientist at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research and an author of the report.
A recent study published in Science found that a significant percentage of beef and soy exported from Brazil to the EU is connected with illegal deforestation.As YaleE360 reported that “as much as 22 percent of soy and 60 percent of beef…back to illegal tree felling and fires in the Amazon and Cerrado regions.”
Why This Matters: The study’s lead author Raoni Rajão said, “Until now, agribusiness and the Brazilian government have claimed that they cannot monitor the entire supply chain, nor distinguish the legal from the illegal deforestation.” This new study undercuts that idea, showing that Brazil can (and must) monitor agribusiness’ connections to illegal deforestation.
As the World Economic Forum recently wrote, miniature urban forests (often no bigger than a tennis court) planted using a method invented by a Japanese botanist in the 1970s are growing in popularity. Known as “Miyawaki” forests, these dense groups of trees are bursting with biodiversity and grow more quickly and absorb more CO2 than […]
By Julia Fine A new study published this month by Jennifer A. Devine et al. found that in Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve, forests governed via community-based resource management are more resilient to narco-deforestation than state-run parks. As Fred Pearce reported in Yale Environment 360, the study calculated that up to 87% of the deforestation was […]
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