published on 8 July 2019 in ecosystems

100 million hectares of tropical forest to be reforested identified

Tropical forests occupy only 6% of the land above sea level but they contain an incredible variety of life forms, more than half of all animal and plant species, and they play a decisive role in absorbing enormous quantities of CO2. These treasure chests of biodiversity are at risk today, threatened by deforestation, fires, fragmentation, mining operations and hunting. Destruction of these forests results in serious consequences for biodiversity, climate control and the well-being of rural and urban populations. However, it is not too late to take action; indeed, an international research group has identified 100 million hectares of tropical forest all over the world that show optimum characteristics for reforestation. The research has been published in the journal Science Advances and combines high resolution satellite images with the results of a recent research project focussing on 4 benefits of reforestation for the environment (biodiversity, mitigation and adaptation to climate changes, water security) and 3 strategic economic aspects of the effort to restore forests (cost, investment risk and probability of restoration of forest in the future). The territories have been subdivided into 1 square-kilometre blocks, giving priority to the areas that have lost over 10% of the original forest coverage. Brazil, Indonesia, India, Madagascar and Colombia are the countries with the largest hotspots, while the African continent is where the reforestation areas with the highest average values are found, all concentrated in 6 countries: Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Togo, South Sudan and Madagascar. Almost 87% of the restoration hotspots fall within the biodiversity conservation hotspots, areas with high concentrations of endemic species, but which are at high risk of deforestation. Another positive fact has emerged from this research: around 75% of hotspots suitable for reforestation are in countries that have accepted the Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched in 2011 that aims to reforest 1.5 million square kilometres of deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 3.5 million square kilometres by 2030.

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