Deforestation has an immense impact on global heating, as the destruction of trees and plant life stops the absorption of harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, which otherwise remain in the atmosphere and contribute to rising temperatures.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, up to 15 billion trees are cut down every year to help meet global demand for meat, soy, and palm oil.
But a 2021 study has found that forest regeneration can occur with unexpectedly fast recovery times if forests are simply left alone to grow and thrive.
This is how #deforestation alters landscapes. 👇— WWF (@WWF) September 2, 2023
And the effects go beyond the visible: local communities, #climate and biodiversity feel the impact.
It’s time we champion people and nature and restore our forests. 🌲 RT if you’re with us! pic.twitter.com/hZ0KvV1WA8
Research published in the journal Science and summarized by Anthropocene sought to see how former forests that have been turned to pasture and farmland could recover and how quickly the process could be achieved.
A total of 77 different sites at different stages of growth were examined at the same time, including wet and dry forests in Central and South America, as well as coastal West Africa.
Incredibly, after one to nine years, the sites were able to achieve 90% of the carbon, nitrogen, and soil density levels found in untouched forests.
Further, the size of tree leaves, tree wood density, and the number of nitrogen-fixing trees took between three to 27 years to return to old growth conditions.
Clemson University ecologist Sara DeWalt noted that natural regeneration of forests is the most efficient way to do things, both ecologically and economically. “Nature will take care of it if we let it,” she said.
However, the researcher also noted there will be times when intervention is required.
“If there’s no source for seeds, heavily degraded soils, and no way for animals to get there, that’s going to be a problem,” she said. “There will be times when planting will be necessary.”
While this is mostly encouraging research, it still brought up a couple of worrying findings. For example, it took 12 decades for species found in old-growth tropical forests to return to the new growth areas.
But, still, the fact that once-vital forests can return more quickly than anticipated is welcome news for biodiversity and carbon capture.
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