Nature and Biodiversity

How environmentalists are trying to salvage rainforests

A man cuts down a tree with a chainsaw in a forest near the municipality of Itaituba, Brazil August 7, 2017. Picture taken August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Nacho Doce - RC1110003590

The replanting of tropical rainforests would result in increased safeguarding for wildlife and water security. Image: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Michael Taylor
Asia correspondent and sub-editor, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of the Environment

Researchers have identified swathes of lost tropical rainforests as the best places to replant trees, hoping to redress some of the damage done by deforestation and limit climate change.

A four-year study used high-resolution satellite imagery to pinpoint more than 100 million denuded hectares (247 million acres) - from South Sudan to Brazil and India - that would deliver good results if reforested.

Image: World Resources Institute

"Globally, more than half of the tropical forests in the world are gone - most of that in the last 50 years," said Robin Chazdon, a professor at the University of Connecticut and co-author of the study published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

"These forests provide a huge amount of functioning and services for our planet and people that have gone unappreciated," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, the fourth-highest annual loss since records began in 2001, according to forest monitoring service Global Forest Watch.

Of greatest concern, it said, was the disappearance of 3.6 million hectares of old-growth rainforest, an area the size of Belgium, much due to fires, land-clearing for farms and mining.

Environmentalists say protecting existing forests and restoring damaged ones prevents flooding, stores carbon, limits climate change and protects biodiversity.

Researchers looked at which tropical rainforest areas - if replanted - would produce the highest benefits for safeguarding wildlife, curbing and adapting to climate change, and boosting water security.

Other factors included restoration cost, investment risk and the likelihood of restored forests surviving into the future.

The top 15 nations with the largest reforestation hotspots included Brazil, Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Colombia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.

The six countries with the greatest potential for successful rainforest restoration were all African: Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Togo, South Sudan and Madagascar.

More than 70% of the hotspots were found in countries that have already made reforestation commitments under the Bonn Challenge, agreed by nations in Germany in 2011.

Have you read?

That effort calls for 350 million hectares of degraded land worldwide to be restored by 2030.

Some countries, including China, India, Malawi, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, have already launched large-scale tree planting efforts with some success.

But researchers said such efforts often get mixed results due to the types of trees used, quality of plantation cover and its value for protecting native species.

Any decisions about changing land use must fully involve local communities, as reforestation should complement rather than compete with food security and land rights, the study said.

"Restoring tropical forests is fundamental to the planet's health, now and for generations to come," said lead author Pedro Brancalion of the University of Sao Paulo.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Nature and BiodiversityClimate Action
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Richer nations divided over climate crisis funding for poor countries, and other nature and climate stories you need to read this week

Michael Purton

June 19, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum