High-Value Opportunities Exist To Restore Tropical Rainforests Around The World

High-value Opportunities Exist To Restore Tropical Rainforests Around The World Forest restoration is underway in Biliran, Leyte, Philippines led by the local community with support from international researchers and government agencies. Robin Chazdon, CC BY-ND

The green belt of tropical rainforests that covers equatorial regions of the Americas, Africa, Indonesia and Southeast Asia is turning brown. Since 1990, Indonesia has lost 50% of its original forest, the Amazon 30% and Central Africa 14%. Fires, logging, hunting, road building and fragmentation have heavily damaged more than 30% of those that remain.

These forests provide many benefits: They store large amounts of carbon, are home to numerous wild species, provide food and fuel for local people, purify water supplies and improve air quality. Replenishing them is an urgent global imperative.

But there aren’t enough resources to restore all tropical forests that have been lost or damaged. And restoration can conflict with other activities, such as farming and forestry. As a tropical forest ecologist, I am interested in developing better tools for assessing where these efforts will be most cost-effective and beneficial.

Over the past four years, tropical forestry professor Pedro Brancalion and I have led a team of researchers from an international network in evaluating the benefits and feasibility of restoration across tropical rainforests around the world. Our newly published findings identify restoration hotspots – areas where restoring tropical forests would be most beneficial and least costly and risky. They cover over 385,000 square miles (100 million hectares), an area as large as Spain and Sweden combined.

The five countries with the largest areas of restoration hotpots are Brazil, Indonesia, India, Madagascar and Colombia. Six countries in Africa – Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Togo, South Sudan and Madagascar – hold rainforest areas where restoration is expected to yield the highest benefits with the highest feasibility. We hope our results can help governments, conservation groups and international funders target areas where there is high potential for success.

High-value Opportunities Exist To Restore Tropical Rainforests Around The World A native tree nursery for large-scale restoration of Atlantic Forest at Reserva Natural Guapiaçu, Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Robin Chazdon, CC BY-ND

Where to start

Intact forest landscapes in tropical regions declined by 7.2% from 2000 to 2013, mainly due to logging, clearing and fires. These losses have dire consequences for global biodiversity, climate change and forest-dependent peoples.

As my work has shown, tropical forests can recover after they have been cleared or damaged. Although these second-growth forests will never perfectly replace the older forests that have been lost, planting carefully selected trees and assisting natural recovery processes can restore many of their former properties and functions.

But restoration is not uniformly feasible or desirable, and the benefits that forests provide are not evenly distributed. To make informed choices about restoration efforts and investments, organizations need more detailed spatial information. Existing global maps of restoration opportunities are based on actual versus potential levels of tree canopy cover. We wanted to go beyond this measurement to identify where the greatest potential payoffs and challenges lay.

Our study used high-resolution satellite imagery and the latest peer-reviewed research to integrate information about four benefits from forest restoration: biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation and water security. We also assessed three aspects of feasibility: cost, investment risk and the likelihood of restored forests surviving into the future.

We studied these variables across all lowland tropical moist forests worldwide, dividing them into 1-kilometer square blocks that had lost more than 10% of their tree canopy cover in 2016. Each of the seven factors we studied had equal weight in our calculation of total restoration opportunity scores.

The top-scoring blocks, which we call “restoration hotspots,” represent the most compelling regions for tropical forest restoration, with maximum overall benefits and minimal negative trade-offs.

 Forest restoration involves much more than planting trees.

Forest restoration aligns with other global pledges

The top 15 countries with the largest areas of restoration hotspots are distributed across all tropical rainforest regions around the world. Three are in Central and South America, five are in Africa and the Middle East, and seven are in Asia and the Pacific.

Importantly, 89% of the hotspots we identified were located within areas that have already been identified as biodiversity conservation hotspots in tropical regions. These conservation hotspots have exceptionally high concentrations of at-risk species. They have been been focal areas for investment and activities to promote biodiversity conservation for nearly 20 years.

This finding makes sense, since two criteria for designating conservation hotspots – high rates of forest loss and high concentration of endemic, or locally distributed, species – were also variables in our study. Our results strongly support the need to develop and implement integrated solutions that protect remaining forest ecosystems and restore new forests within these high-priority regions.

We also found that 73% of tropical forest restoration hotspots are in countries that have made commitments under the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to bring some 580,000 square miles (150 million hectares) of the world’s deforested and damaged land into restoration by 2020, and 1.35 million square miles (350 million hectares) by 2030. By making these pledges, Bonn Challenge participants have shown that they are politically motivated to restore and conserve forests, and are looking for restoration opportunities.

High-value Opportunities Exist To Restore Tropical Rainforests Around The World Forest restoration on small farms bordering Mpanga Forest Reserve, Uganda, can bring high levels of benefits and is relatively feasible to achieve. Robin Chazdon, CC BY-ND

A means toward many ends

The 88% of the lands we analyzed that did not qualify as restoration hotspots also deserve careful attention. These landscapes could be prioritized for restoration interventions that increase food, water and fuel security through agroforestry practices, watershed protection, woodlots for producing firewood and local timber or commercial tree plantations. All of these areas can provide benefits for people and the environment through combinations of different restoration approaches, even if they are not the best candidates for a full-scale effort to restore a high-functioning forest.

Forest restoration is also urgently needed in other types of forests across the world, such as seasonally dry tropical forests and temperate forests that are heavily managed for timber. Identifying key restoration opportunities in these regions requires separate studies based on their unique benefits and challenges.

Our study helps to highlight how restoring tropical forests can provide multiple benefits for people and nature, and aligns with existing conservation and sustainable development agendas. We hope that our map of restoration opportunities and hotspots will provide useful guidance for nations, conservation organizations and funders, and that local communities and organizations will be engaged in and benefit from these efforts.

About The Author

Robin Chazdon, Professor Emerita of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
9780143130444In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy

by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
1610919564With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein
1451697392In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
PBS Nova's Polar Extremes
by PBS
In this two-hour special, renowned paleontologist Kirk Johnson takes us on an epic adventure through time at the polar…
A huge iceberg just broke off West Antarctica’s most endangered glacier
A Huge Iceberg Just Broke Off West Antarctica’s Most Endangered Glacier
by Madeleine Stone
Huge blocks of ice regularly shear away from Antarctica’s ice shelves, but the losses are speeding up.
The Rise Of Solar Power
by CNBC
Solar power is on the rise. You can see the evidence on rooftops and in the desert, where utility-scale solar plants…
World's Largest Batteries: Pumped Storage
by Practical Engineering
The vast majority of our grid-scale storage of electricity uses this clever method.
Hydrogen Fuels Rockets, But What About Power For Daily Life?
Hydrogen Fuels Rockets, But What About Power For Daily Life?
by Zhenguo Huang
Have you ever watched a space shuttle launch? The fuel used to thrust these enormous structures away from Earth’s…
Fossil Fuel Production Plans Could Push Earth off a Climate Cliff
by The Real News Network
The United Nations is beginning its climate summit in Madrid.
Big Rail Spends More on Denying Climate Change than Big Oil
by The Real News Network
A new study concludes that rail is the industry that's injected the most money into climate change denial propaganda…
Did Scientists Get Climate Change Wrong?
by Sabine Hossenfelder
Interview with Prof Tim Palmer from the University of Oxford.

LATEST ARTICLES

Stories Of When Your Kids Make You Feel Old! | The Curls
Old Conservative White Men: Pass The Football To Someone Who Will Try To Score
by Robert Jennings, InnerSelf.com
We have had important US elections but this one in November 2020 is undoubtedly the most important. Why? America and…
How Tiny Microbes Are Revolutionizing Big Agriculture
How Tiny Microbes Are Revolutionizing Big Agriculture
by Mathew Wallenstein, Colorado State University
Walk into your typical U.S. or U.K. grocery store and feast your eyes on an amazing bounty of fresh and processed…
Uk’s Nuclear Future Hangs On Electricity Tax
Uk’s Nuclear Future Hangs On Electricity Tax
by Paul Brown
The new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, must soon decide whether to save the UK’s nuclear future with an…
Extreme Weather Could Push The U.S. Into Recession
Extreme Weather Could Push The U.S. Into Recession
by Karen Nikos
Physical climate risk from extreme weather events remains unaccounted for in financial markets, a new paper warns.
Why West Coast Water Troubles Will Head East
Why West Coast Water Troubles Will Head East
by Daniel Stolte
Even under modest climate change scenarios, the continental United States faces a significant loss of groundwater, a…
Ecuador's Fuel Protests Show The Risks Of Removing Fossil Fuel Subsidies Too Fast
Ecuador's Fuel Protests Show The Risks Of Removing Fossil Fuel Subsidies Too Fast
by Katherine Monahan
The protests started on Oct. 2 in response to the federal government’s “Decreto 883,” a packet of economic adjustments…
Natural Flood Management Would Be Overwhelmed By Britain's Winter Super-floods
Natural Flood Management Would Be Overwhelmed By Britain's Winter Super-floods
by Robert Wilby and Simon Dadson
As large swathes of the UK endure the worst floods in living memory, hearts and minds are rightly focused on protecting…
Keeping The City Cool Isn't Just About Tree Cover – It Calls For A Commons-based Climate Response
Keeping The City Cool Isn't Just About Tree Cover – It Calls For A Commons-based Climate Response
by Abby Mellick Lopes and Cameron Tonkinwise
A recent report by the Greater Sydney Commission singles out urban heat as one of four priority areas given our coming…