Researchers have reminded the world’s governments that forests will play a vital role in mitigating the effects of climate change – provided policies are robustly pursued and reported with transparency.
But even as European researchers set out the conditions for achieving this, other studies suggest that any pledges may be difficult to keep.
A team from the UK, the European Commission, Italy, and the Netherlands report in the Nature Climate Change journal that land management plans submitted by nations that pledged in Paris in 2015 to contain global warming to 2°C or less could contribute 25% of the total promised reductions in the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel global warming.
New and existing forests
“There is no doubt forests have enormous potential to mitigate against climate change, primarily through reducing deforestation, planting new forests, and managing existing forests,” says Joanna House, of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol in the UK, and one of the authors of the report.
“Forests play a major role in the pledges made by countries towards meeting the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, meeting up to a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions reductions up to 2030. This is a huge contribution considering they only contribute 10% of emissions, while fossil fuels contribute 90%.”
Forests shelter natural biodiversity, recycle rainfall, and offer protection from flooding and erosion. They also soak up carbon and deliver resources that should be sustainable.
But even as Dr House and her colleagues called for better science and more detailed information, other researchers have amassed evidence that the world’s remaining forests are at hazard.
One group reports in the Ecology Letters journal that the increasing frequency and severity of droughts is beginning to put forests at risk everywhere.
Although rainforests, temperate woodland, and the conifer and birch forests of the north are very different ecosystems, trees respond to stress in much the same way in all of them.
Read more at Forests Key to Mitigating Climate Change