Forests here and there have regrown in large patches covering an overall area the size of France.
Deforestation remains an acute problem across much of the world, but far from everywhere.
From Canada to Mongolia forests have regrown here and there in large patches covering an overall area the size of France, according to a new analysis by Trillion Trees, a joint venture between World Wildlife Fund (WWF), BirdLife International and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
One particular success story of regeneration involves Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, which is a hotspot of biodiversity with several endangered species of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on Earth. In this new century as much as 4.2 million hectares of forest has regrown there, adding an area the size of the Netherlands to local forests.
The regeneration has been thanks to “a combination of planned projects to restore the forest, more responsible industry practices and other factors, including migration trends toward cities,” says Trillion Trees, which has been mapping forest regeneration worldwide.
That does not mean, however, that forests in Brazil, including the Atlantic Forest, are out of the woods, so to speak. “Such is the extent of historic deforestation that the area of this unique forest still needs to more than double from currently 12% of its original extent to 30% in order to reach what scientists believe is a minimal threshold for its lasting conservation,” WWF explains.
Other forests elsewhere that have experienced large-scale regrowth include boreal forests in Mongolia’s northern wilderness where some 1.2 million hectares of trees have grown back in 20 years. There too regeneration has been due largely to ongoing conservation efforts.
Other regeneration global hotspots include boreal forests of Canada and biodiverse forests in Central Africa. In all, newly grown forests around the world could store the equivalent of 5.9 gigatons of CO2, which is more than the annual emissions of the United States, according to the nonprofit.
Yet even as some forests are growing back, others are being thinned and felled. Thus, the need for forest restoration and conservation projects is as acute as ever.
“Deforestation is at the center of our climate crisis, and we must do everything we can to halt it,” says Josefina Braña Varela, vice president and deputy lead for forests at WWF. “In addition, the restoration of our natural forests will play an essential role in preserving these critical ecosystems,” the expert adds.
“The [new] analysis provides a positive outlook for natural regeneration — but this growth doesn’t happen without careful planning, increased investment and strong policies in place that lead to an increase in forest cover,” she says.