Tag Archives: Rainforest

Four ways to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises simultaneously

A landmark report by the world’s most senior climate and biodiversity scientists argues that the world will have to tackle the climate crisis and the species extinction crisis simultaneously, or not at all.

That’s because Earth’s land and ocean already absorbs about half of the greenhouse gases that people emit. Wild animals, plants, fungi and microbes help maintain this carbon sink by keeping soils, forests and other ecosystems healthy.

Failing to tackle climate change meanwhile will accelerate biodiversity loss, as higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns make survival for many species more difficult. Both problems are intertwined, and so solutions to one which exacerbate the other are doomed to fail.

Luckily, there are options for addressing climate change and biodiversity loss together, called nature-based solutions. If implemented properly, these measures can enhance the richness and diversity of life on Earth, help habitats store more carbon and even reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, making ecosystems more resilient while slowing the rate at which the planet warms.

1. Protect and restore ecosystems

Everyone is familiar with the need to preserve tropical rainforests, but there are other pristine habitats, on land and in the ocean, which are in dire need of protection.

Mangrove swamps occupy less than 1% of Earth’s surface, but store the equivalent of 22 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s around two-thirds of total emissions from burning fossil fuels each year. These coastal habitats act as a home, nursery, and feeding ground for numerous species. More than 40 bird, ten reptile and six mammal species are only found in mangroves.

Under the canopy in a tropical mangrove forest.
Mangroves are particularly good at storing carbon. Velavan K/Shutterstock

Peatlands – those soggy ecosystems which include bogs, marshes and fens – store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests. The top 15cm stores more carbon below ground than tropical rainforests do above ground. In the UK, peatlands store the equivalent of ten billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and host precious plant and animals such as red grouse, mountain hares and marsh earwort.

Unfortunately, more than 80% of the UK’s peatlands are degraded in some way. A single hectare of damaged peatland can emit more than 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year – equivalent to the yearly emissions of seven family cars.

Protecting these ecosystems can prevent carbon being released into the atmosphere. Restoring them where they’ve been damaged can suck carbon dioxide from the air and guarantee shelter for rare wildlife. Diverse natural systems also bounce back better from climate extremes than do species-poor, highly degraded systems, and will keep helping biodiversity and people even as Earth continues to warm.

2. Manage farmland and fisheries sustainably

Not all of the world’s land and ocean can be left to nature, but the land and ocean people use to produce food and other resources can be managed better.

People currently use about 25% of the planet’s land surface for growing food, extracting resources and living. The global food system contributes one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Methods of farming – such as agroecology, which involves incorporating trees and habitats within farm fields – and sustainable fishing practices can protect and regenerate topsoil and seabed habitats, boosting biodiversity and improving how resilient these ecosystems are to climate change.

Rows of vegetable beds with lines of young trees.
Reforestation in tandem with food growing: lettuce, cauliflowers and tomatoes grow among saplings in Brazil. Luisaazara/Shutterstock

3. Create new forests – with care

People have already cut down three trillion trees – half of all the trees which once grew on Earth.

Creating new woodlands and forests can draw down atmospheric carbon and provide diverse habitats for a range of species, but great care must be taken to plant the right mix of trees in the right place. Vast plantations of non-native trees, particularly when they’re a single species, offer less useful habitat for wildlife, but a mix of native trees can benefit biodiversity and store more carbon in the long run.

A study in south-east China showed that forests containing several tree species stored twice as much carbon as the average single-species plantation.

We can do the same thing in the ocean by restoring seagrass meadows.

4. Shift to more plant-based diets

Globally, animal agriculture is a major contributor to biodiversity loss. Millions of hectares of Amazon rainforest, African Savanna and Central Asian grassland have been ploughed up to create pasture and plant feed crops for the cows, pigs and chickens that we eat. Nearly 60% of all planet-warming emissions from food production originate in livestock rearing.

Reducing demand for meat and dairy, through diet changes and cutting waste, would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions – which itself benefits biodiversity by limiting climate change – it would also lower pressure for farmland and so reduce deforestation and habitat destruction, freeing more land for the wider use of nature-based solutions.

A vegan burger with a side of sweet potato fries.
A vegan diet is better for wildlife and the climate than a high-meat one. Rolande PG/Unsplash, CC BY-SA

Meat, especially highly processed meat, has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease and bowel and stomach cancer. Plant-based diets are healthier, reduce healthcare costs and reduce carbon emissions.

A note of caution

It’s important to remember that nature-based solutions aren’t a substitute for the rapid phase out of fossil fuels. They should involve a wide range of ecosystems on land and in the sea, not just forests. Wherever they’re implemented, nature-based solutions must proceed with the full engagement and consent of Indigenous peoples and local communities, respecting their cultural and ecological rights. And nature-based solutions should be explicitly designed to provide measurable benefits for biodiversity – not just carbon sequestration.

With all this in mind, the world can design robust and resilient solutions for the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, sustaining nature and people together, now and into the future.

*

About the authors:

Pete Smith currently receives research funding from UKRI, EU, Wellcome Trust and Scottish Government. He is on the science advisory team for Carbon Direct (https://carbon-direct.com/).

Mark Maslin is a Founding Director of Rezatec Ltd, Co-Director of The London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, a member of Cheltenham Science Festival Advisory Committee and a member of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group. He is an unpaid member of the Sopra-Steria CSR Board and Sheep Included Ltd Advisory Board. He has received grant funding in the past from the NERC, EPSRC, ESRC, DFG, Royal Society, DIFD, BEIS, DECC, FCO, Innovate UK, Carbon Trust, UK Space Agency, European Space Agency, Research England, Wellcome Trust, Leverhulme Trust, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation Sprint2020, and British Council. He has received research funding in the past from The Lancet, Laithwaites, Seventh Generation, Channel 4, JLT Re, WWF, Hermes, CAFOD, HP, and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

Camille Parmesan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Indigenous groups calling for international support to ramp up pressure to defend their home.

Dear friends,

It’s horrifying — in the past year, an area the size of 500,000 soccer fields has been destroyed in the Amazon! Nearly half a BILLION trees torn down and gone… forever.

This is how they do it: armed militia swarm into protected areas, and indigenous leaders who stand up to them are murdered. There’s even stories of planes dropping gasoline to start massive forest fires. And Brazil’s far-right President Bolsonaro is making it even worse by stripping the Amazon of its remaining protections!

Right now, Amazon champions in Brazil’s Congress are considering sweeping new protections for the precious rainforest. And indigenous groups are calling for international support to ramp up pressure to defend their home.

Let’s build a massive call of citizens from around the world to protect the forest — when it’s huge, allies will deliver our voices to Congress in each key moment to silence the chainsaws and stop this Amazon apocalypse!

Click to save the Amazon

SIGN HERE

Bolsonaro has praised forest killers, blocked money for key conservation programs and threatened to evict entire indigenous communities from their lands. And if we don’t stop it, it’s not just the forest we’ll lose. It could be everything. The Amazon breathes in and stores massive amounts of carbon — and without it, there’s no chance of stopping the climate crisis.

Members of the Brazilian Congress are about to introduce proposals that could bring illegal deforestation in Brazil to ZERO, and key indigenous leaders are calling on the world to support the defence of the forest. We can help them!

The Amazon needs us right now. Add your name, and share widely to end the Amazon apocalypse before it’s too late. Once enough of us sign, we’ll throw everything at saving the forest — demonstrating of huge public support, polling, hard-hitting ads, and pressure on key governments around the world to break their silence:

Click to save the Amazon

Just years ago, when Brazil wanted to put a chunk of the Amazon the size of Denmark up for sale, 1.9 million Avaazers worldwide stood up for it and WE WON! Now the threat is even bigger… So we need to fight harder, smarter and stronger than ever for the Amazon!

With hope and determination,

Diego, Bert, Laura, Andrew, Mel, Nana, Luis and the rest of the Avaaz team

More information

‘Football pitch’ of Amazon forest lost every minute (BBC)
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48827490

Brazil: huge rise in Amazon destruction under Bolsonaro, figures show (The Guardian)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/03/brazil-amazon-rainforest-deforestation-environment

Donors of Brazilian Amazon Fund should get their way (Rio Times)
https://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/brazil/donors-of-brazilian-amazon-fund-get-their-way/

Jair Bolsonaro launches an assault on Amazon rainforest protections (The Guardian)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/02/brazil-jair-bolsonaro-amazon-rainforest-protections

Brazil’s Bolsonaro presses anti-indigenous agenda; resistance surges (Mongabay)
https://news.mongabay.com/2019/06/brazils-bolsonaro-presses-anti-indigenous-agenda-resistance-surges/

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wildfires burning down Amazon forest

We have never seen anything like this before! Right now, Thousands  of wildfires are burning down the Amazon, with black smoke plunging entire cities into darkness…

Ahead of the Group of Seven summit in France, French President Emmanuel Macron called the situation in Brazil an “international crisis” and vowed to make it a priority point of discussion.

As wildfires continue to engulf the Amazon rainforest at a record pace, Bolsonaro, who has called for the development of the Amazon region in his country, has come under immense scrutiny, with advocates saying fires have increased in areas of the world’s largest rainforest where deforestation has also risen.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is telling other nations not to meddle in its growing crisis in the Amazon rainforest as wildfires continue to spread across the region, shortly after he said Brazil didn’t “have the resources” on its own to extinguish the blaze.

“These countries that send money here, they don’t send it out of charity,”

the right-wing president said in a live broadcast on Thursday, Reuters reports.

“They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty,”

he added.

 

The lungs of our planet are choking, but now Brazil’s far-right President Bolsonaro has come under massive pressure to act– let’s use this moment to make sure he protects to forest, before it’s too late! Sign here and share with everyone you know.

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