Intact Forests Are Crucial to Mitigating Climate Change, Scientists Say

In just the past decade, the world has lost more than seven percent of its intact forests; also known as large connected areas free from disturbances caused by humanity. This figure shows to be only accelerating. A new study says maintaining these remaining intact forests is of utmost importance.

The study, published in the journal Nature, discusses how it is critically important to keep control of these forests and protect further damage. This is to mitigate the damaging effects of climate change, maintain water supplies, safeguard biodiversity, and protect the health of humanity.

The scientists found that although Earth’s forests are dwindling, they currently absorb about a quarter of the human-produced carbon emissions within the atmosphere. Hence, ensuring these remain intact plays a highly important role in offsetting climate change. Furthermore, it was found that intact forests withdraw more carbon emissions than planted forests and those which have been felled or degraded.

Intact forests also provide a home to more wildlife in comparison to degraded forests, the latter of which has decreased biodiversity and negatively impacted function of ecosystems.

Also, the report warns global policies intended to reduce deforestation do not place adequate emphasis on preserving the decreasing world’s forests that remain intact. Currently, these policies go by a one-size-fits-all strategy, considering every forest is different, this approach could well be detrimental rather than restorative.

Natural landscapes have been shown to provide the highest quality habitats and ecosystems. Without these, populations and ecosystems quickly dwindle, and disappear. Whether for logging, land clearing for agriculture, building roads and industrialization, or sourcing palm oil – natural intact forests are ever-so-often being culled.

The area of forest between South America’s Amazon rainforest to the taiga that circles the Arctic is expected to be among, or the largest intact forest that remains on earth. Expanses such as these are a sanctuary to many species of flora and fauna.

In addition to removing trees, human hunters removing animals from the ecosystem within intact forests was found as harmful to the environment. The amount of carbon that forests store is dependent on the frequency of trees. Some trees rely on certain animals to distribute their seeds into other areas of the land. When these animals are killed for ‘sport’, this creates a ripple effect – the trees aren’t able to reproduce; store less carbon; produce less oxygen.