|Forests cover 30 percent of the Earth's land. They help people to survive and thrive by purifying air and water and providing food and the opportunity for people to get jobs / Photo by: nikkiphoto via 123RF|
Forests cover 30 percent of the Earth's land. They help people to survive and thrive by purifying air and water and providing food and the opportunity for people to get jobs (about 13.2 million worldwide have jobs in the forest sector and another 41 million work in related sectors). Wildlife too relies on forests for their survival. Forests also play a major role in mitigating the impacts of climate change that are increasing at an alarming rate.
Unfortunately, forests are disappearing quickly. National Geographic, an American pay television network and flagship channel, reported that the world lost 502,000 square miles of forest—an area larger than South Africa—between 1990 and 2016. A 2015 study published in the journal Nature found that 46 percent of all the trees in the world have been cut down since humans began demolishing forests. Over the past five decades, about 17 percent of trees had been destroyed in the Amazon rainforest alone.
According to LiveScience, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, culture, and history, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that our planet is losing an estimated 18 million acres of forest every year, roughly the size of the country of Panama. Today, about half of the world's tropical forests have been cleared due to deforestation.
Deforestation occurs worldwide. It was reported that rainforests are particularly targeted for this, which if it continues, the world's rainforests may completely vanish in just a century. The common reasons why deforestation occurs in many countries include making more land available for urbanization and housing, creating room for cattle ranching, harvesting timber to create commercial products, and many more.
With the current level of deforestation, our planet is at higher risk especially because it is one of the major factors that are worsening climate change. Reports showed that 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions came from deforestation. Experts are now saying that reforestation can help save our planet.
A Massive Forest Restoration is Needed
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to increase at an alarming rate. Significantly reducing our planet's carbon emissions can decrease global temperature. The trees around us play a critical role in capturing carbon dioxide while releasing breathable oxygen. Planting more trees will not only help our planet manage carbon levels but also stop the global temperature from further increasing.
Scientific American, a popular science magazine in the US that features the most awe-inspiring advances in science and technology, reported that a new study showed emerging forests could capture 205 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the next 40 to 100 years. This is two-thirds of all the carbon emissions generated since the Industrial Revolution started. Tom Crowther, a professor of global ecosystem ecology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, said, "Forest restoration is by far our most powerful planetary solution today."
|Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to increase at an alarming rate. Significantly reducing our planet's carbon emissions can decrease global temperature / Photo by: Lane Erickson via 123RF|
The recent study analyzed almost 80,000 satellite photo measurements of tree covers around the world. Researchers then evaluated the global databases, as well as forests one hectare at a time. They found out that about 0.9 billion hectares can be forested and potentially decrease the carbon levels in the atmosphere. If those hectares are planted with trees after 40 to 100 years, there would be "a bank of excess carbon that is no longer in the atmosphere," Crowther reported.
However, planting a single tree every day is not enough. Saving our planet requires a massive forest restoration. Considering that our world emits about 45 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, we would need three billion acres of trees to offset our annual emissions. According to an article on Medium, an online publishing platform, people need to make sure that we have enough land and water to plant these trees.
Planting should begin as soon as possible because forests need 70 to 100 years to reach full maturity. As climate change continues to worsen, it will more likely compromise the forests' ability to grow. Replanting may be as simple as it sounds, but it will take a whole community to be successful. Robin Chazdon, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the University of Connecticut, said that a lot of interdisciplinary science is needed. Scientists and politicians should also collaborate to guide reforestation that is effective and will not cost too much.
A Long-Term Commitment
Planting three billion acres of trees requires a lot of effort. A 2018 study published in Conversation Letters showed that a long-term commitment is needed for this massive forest restoration. This is because not all tree-planting projects have succeeded mainly as the efforts were not maintained. For instance, the researchers found out that 50 percent of secondary forest patches in Costa Rica were re-cleared within 20 years. Another 85 percent were re-cleared within 54 years.
According to an article by Phys.org, a science, research, and technology news aggregator, Matthew Fagan, assistant professor of geography and environmental systems from the University of Maryland Baltimore County said, "Young forests take something like 100 years to get to peak biodiversity, and as many as 80 years to store enough carbon to make a big difference. A lot of these benefits accumulate over time, and they don't accrue linearly."
Thus, the researchers suggested that instead of committing to preserve a huge number of hectares of forest by 2020, countries should "commit to restoring an area of 100-year-old forest by 2120."
|Planting three billion acres of trees requires a lot of effort. A 2018 study published in Conversation Letters showed that a long-term commitment is needed for this massive forest restoration / Photo by: Pattanaphong Khaunkaew via 123RF|