Earth's Intact Forests Are Invaluable, and in Danger
By Tim Radford
The world's unregarded forests are at risk. Intact forest is now being destroyed at an annual rate that threatens to cancel out any attempts to contain global warming by controlling greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study.
And a third study highlights the value to humanity of intact forests, while estimating that four-fifths of the earth's remaining woodlands are now in some way degraded by human activities. "This figure," researchers warn, "is probably an underestimate."
All three studies confirm the value of forests to the planet—and underline the increasingly dangerous rate of loss.
An international team of researchers report in Nature Communications that they made a computer model of the planet's atmospheric conditions: they included natural and human-triggered aerosols, volatile organic compounds, greenhouse gases and other factors that influence temperature, one of which is albedo: the scientist's word for the capacity of terrain to absorb or reflect solar radiation.
They tested their model against the earth's temperature records since 1850—and then ran it again, this time with a hypothetical forest-free world.
"The result was a significant rise of 0.8°C in mean temperature. In other words, today the planet would be almost 1°C warmer on average if there were no more forests," said Paulo Artaxo, of the University of São Paulo in Brazil.
"If we go on destroying forests at the current pace—some 7,000 square kilometers per year in the case of Amazonia—in three to four decades, we'll have a massive accumulated loss. This will intensify global warming regardless of all efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
The second study, in the journal New Phytologist, is a reminder of just how complex the challenge of forest conservation can be. Foresters and botanists from around the planet concentrated on the special case of the tropical rainforest, home to so much of the world's terrestrial biodiversity, and analyzed the hazards.
These include rising temperatures, increasing carbon dioxide levels, fires, more destructive storms, insect infestation and the impact of woody vines known as lianas.
They found that trees in some areas were dying at about twice the rate they were 35 years ago.
"No matter how you look at it, trees in the moist tropics will likely die at elevated rates through the end of the century relative to their mortality rates in the past," said Nate McDowell of the U.S. government's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
"There is a host of factors that appear to be driving mortality, and the likelihood of those factors occurring is increasing."
Such studies deliver no great surprises: they add levels of detail to a big picture that has been clearly outlined and repeatedly confirmed. Humans do not need to fell forests to find new farmland, and when they do so they damage the natural diversity on which they and other creatures depend.
Winners All Around
Forests are being destroyed at a disconcerting rate, but if humans conserved them, there would be a greater chance of containing global warming to targets set by a global climate summit in Paris in 2015.
And repeated studies have confirmed that conserved forests deliver many benefits. Everybody wins.
Just how humans benefit has been spelled out yet again in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. Forests cover about 25 percent of the planet's land surface, but over the past three centuries Earth has lost at least a third of its natural tree cover, due to human expansion. More than 80 percent of what remains has been affected by human action.
But these same forests absorb around 25 percent of carbon emissions from factory chimneys, power stations and car exhausts; they play a vital role in stabilizing local and regional weather, and they reduce the risk of drought.
Intact forests are home to higher numbers of other species; they sustain many indigenous cultures; their conservation delivers medically-beneficial plants and their degradation drives the spread of infectious diseases.
"It is well-known that forest protection is essential for any environmental solution—yet not all forests are equal," said James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia and the World Conservation Society.
"Forest conservation must be prioritized based on their relative values, and Earth's remaining forests are the crown jewels, ones that global climate and biodiversity policies must now emphasize."
China to Plant New Forests the Size of Ireland This Year https://t.co/9Ixo9bcc6q @forestservice @WildForests @SkyRainforest— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515969908.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
When Europeans first arrived in North America, Atlantic puffins were common on islands in the Gulf of Maine. But hunters killed many of the birds for food or for feathers to adorn ladies' hats. By the 1800s, the population in Maine had plummeted.
- Experts Recommend Halving Global Fishing for Crucial Prey Species ›
- US Court Upholds Ruling on Vast Marine Monument Established by ... ›
A "major" natural gas explosion killed two people and seriously injured at least seven in Baltimore, Maryland Monday morning.
- Fatal Natural Gas Explosion Rocks Durham, NC - EcoWatch ›
- Gas Explosion Rips Through Maryland Office & Shopping Complex ... ›
Nearly 900 people across the U.S. and Canada have been sickened by salmonella linked to onions distributed by Thomson International, the The New York Times reported.
- Meat Producers Issue Massive Recalls after Salmonella, Listeria ... ›
- Salmonella Outbreaks Could Worsen with Decreased Poultry ... ›
- Major Salmonella Outbreak Exacerbated by Government Shutdown ... ›
In the coming days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to use its power to roll back yet another Obama-era environmental protection meant to curb air pollution and slow the climate crisis.
- Permian Basin Methane Emissions Found to Be More Than 2x ... ›
- Oil and Gas Operations Release 60 Percent More Methane than ... ›
- 'Extraordinarily Harmful' Trump Rule Would Gut Restrictions on ... ›
- Exxon Now Wants to Write the Rules for Regulating Methane ... ›
By Alex Kirby
The temperature of the Arctic matters to the entire world: it helps to keep the global climate fairly cool. Scientists now say that by 2035 there could be an end to Arctic sea ice.
Melt Ponds Crucial<p>"The prospect of loss of sea ice by 2035 should really be focusing all our minds on achieving a low-carbon world as soon as humanly feasible."</p><p><a href="http://www.reading.ac.uk/search/search-staff-details.aspx?id=10813" target="_blank">Dr. David Schroeder from the University of Reading</a>, UK, who co-led the implementation of the melt pond scheme in the climate model, says, "This shows just how important sea ice processes like melt ponds are in the Arctic, and why it is crucial that they are incorporated into climate models."</p><p>The extent of the areas <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/characteristics/formation.html" target="_blank">sea ice</a> covers varies between summer and winter. If more solar energy is absorbed at the surface, and temperatures rise further, a cycle of warming and melting occurs during summer months.</p><p>When the ice forms, the ocean water beneath becomes saltier and denser than the surrounding ocean. Saltier water sinks and moves along the ocean bottom towards the equator, while warm water from mid-depths to the surface travels from the equator towards the poles.</p><p>Scientists refer to this process as the ocean's global "conveyor-belt." Changes to the volume of sea ice can disrupt normal ocean circulation, with consequences for global climate. </p>
- Strongest, Oldest Arctic Sea Ice Breaks Up for First Time on Record ... ›
- Arctic Sea Ice Levels Hit Record Low After Unusually Warm January ... ›
- Why California Droughts Could Increase Due to Arctic Sea Ice Loss ... ›
Russia's Health Ministry has given regulatory approval for the world's first COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
Putin's Daughter Among Vaccinated<p>The Russian leader also said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is feeling well.</p><p>"One of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in the testing," Putin said.</p><p>After the first vaccine shot, his daughter experienced a slight fever, 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F). Her temperature came down to just slightly above normal the next day. </p><p>"After the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine. She is feeling well and has a high antibody count," Putin said. </p><p>He didn't specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, received the vaccine.</p><p>Russian health authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to receive shots of the vaccine.</p>
Years of Work Reduced to Weeks<p>Russia is the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine. As <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coronavirus-vaccine-may-only-be-available-in-mid-2021/a-54362065" target="_blank">countries worldwide race to produce the first vaccine</a>, health experts warn that speed and national pride could compromise safety.</p><p>Scientists in Russia and abroad have questioned Moscow's decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people, but Putin emphasized that the vaccine underwent the necessary trials and that vaccination will be voluntary.</p><p>Russian officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will begin in September, and mass vaccination may start as early as October.</p><p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippines-duterte-volunteers-to-be-putins-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-guinea-pig/a-54523030" target="_blank">lauded Russia's efforts in developing the vaccine</a> and said that the Philippines is ready to work with Moscow on vaccine trials, supply and production. Duterte volunteered to "be the first they can experiment on."</p><p>"I will tell President Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said, adding that he thinks Russia's vaccine will be ready for the Philippines by December.</p>
- Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine Enters Phase 2 and 3 Clinical Trials ... ›
- Trump Administration Buys up Nearly All the World's Supply of ... ›
- First Trial of Moderna's Coronavirus Vaccine Produces Immune ... ›
A powerful series of thunderstorms roared across the Midwest on Monday, downing trees, damaging structures and knocking out power to more than a million people.