|Forests provide a number of benefits and services to the planet such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreation, carbon storage, climate regulation, and an abundance of forest products/ Photo By Teodoro Ortiz Tarrascusa via 123RF|
Forests play an integral role in our ecosystem. It keeps millions of species of plants and animals alive. It provides a number of benefits and services to the planet such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreation, carbon storage, climate regulation, and an abundance of forest products. One of the factors that are critical and should be well-maintained to keep our forests healthy is climate. Dreadful changes in our climate can lead to wildfires, destruction of wildlife habitats, and many more.
Over the past decades, we have seen how climate change affected the growth and productivity of our world's forests. It has affected our weather, temperature, rainfall, and others. Aside from that, there has been a massive increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that has heavily impacted the growth of our plants and trees. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the three main reasons for such a situation now are increased carbon dioxide, increased temperature, and the changing precipitation.
The increasing risks in our forests are becoming more alarming as years pass by. They become more at risk of wildfires and more vulnerable to pests. Thus, a lot of scientists and researchers around the world are trying to find a solution to mitigate the impacts of climate change on our forests. One of the solutions is through the plantation. However, a recent study showed that the impacts of the plantation are not that effective.
Impacts of Climate Change on Forests
Climate change has caused more severe weather events in the past years, such as wind storms, ice storms, earthquakes, flash floods, hurricanes, and many more. It can potentially destroy the trees and plants in forests, as well as the animals living there. One of the impacts that climate change also has on our forests not only involves the change of distribution of tree species and forest productivity but also insect outbreaks.
According to the report of EDA, insect outbreaks often weaken, defoliate, and kill trees. In fact, pine beetles have damaged more than 650,000 acres of forest in Colorado in 2007. More than 3.7 million acres have been damaged by spruce beetles in Western Canada and Southern Alaska in the same year. What's worse is that climate can contribute to the severity of these insect outbreaks in the future.
Additionally, climate can affect the species' way of living. It can alter their seasonal life cycles—some species can develop faster and expand their ranges northward. At the same time, it can negatively affect important native vegetation. Climate change can also cause massive wildfires in a particular forest. It can cause a lot of damages not only in wildlife but also in humans and our economy.
|Commercial plantation also helps the economic conditions of farmers and improves the conditions of the land use pattern of an area/ Photo By Marina Pissarova via 123RF|
For instance, wildfires that happened in 2011 damaged more than eight million acres of forest in the United States, which resulted in more than $1.9 billion in damages and 15 deaths. Some of the contributing factors are the increasing world temperature and drought conditions. It is expected that climate will increase the intensity, extent, and frequency of wildfires in many countries around the world.
Plantation or Natural Forests?
For the past decades, a lot of scientists, environmentalists, and researchers have resorted to plantation due to its benefits. A plantation is defined by Britannica as "a usually large estate in a tropical or subtropical region that is cultivated by unskilled or semiskilled labor under central direction." Some of the benefits include enriching the soil quality, improving the water-holding capacity of the soil, decreasing the rate of evaporation, and many more.
Since plantation means planting more trees, we can expect more oxygen and take up of carbon emissions, which fight global warming and climate change. The commercial plantation also helps the economic conditions of farmers and improves the conditions of the land use pattern of an area. It has also been proven that trees are quicker to grow in forest plantations compared to natural forests.
According to an article by the Science Daily, a recent study showed that more countries have pledged to set plantations of commercial trees in their areas. They believe that it can massively reduce expected carbon uptake.
However, Simon Lewis, lead author, and professor of Global Change Science, said, "Plantations are much poorer at storing carbon than natural forests. To combat climate change, natural forest restoration is clearly the most effective approach. Well-managed forests can also help to alleviate poverty in low-income regions, as well as conserve biodiversity and support the UN's Sustainable Development Goals."
New calculations have revealed that in order for our planet to have more rapid emission cuts and remove carbon from the atmosphere, countries should prefer natural forests more. The researchers used long-term carbon sequestration rates for the natural forest, plantations, and agroforestry. The findings showed that 42 billion tons of carbon can be removed in the atmosphere by 2100 just by restoring natural forests in over 350 million hectares of land.