The world’s forests harbour more biodiversity and store more carbon than almost any other global terrestrial ecosystem. They house around two-thirds of the world's land-based species of plants and animals and they also help keep the climate stable over time by storing massive amounts of carbon. That’s the good news, now for the not so good news.
Logging and burning forests releases that carbon to the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. In addition, If we don’t pay attention and prioritise forest biodiversity, we risk losing our forests to plantations. You see industry is clearing forests to make room for plantations. Yup, that’s right. We could stand to lose whole forest ecosystems to plantations because they are an attractive option for big business to make quick money. Yup, once again its all about the money....
Heads of State are publicly recognizing that forests are important in the fight against climate change but still haven’t grasped the need for the protection of biodiversity. It might seem like having trees is a good thing either way but here is how it really breaks down. The carbon value of an intact forest is greater because an it contains both more carbon and more biodiversity than a degraded forest. Therefore protecting forests from deforestation and degradation curbs the release of carbon and protects biodiversity. Recent reviews and studies also show that intact primary forests take up carbon from the atmosphere, which means that biodiversity indirectly helps sequester carbon from manmade GHG emissions. Intact forests mean less release of carbon and more biodiversity. That means good things for the climate, forests and the furry critters running around in it.
This means it is imperative that biodiversity protection be a part of the climate deal at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. A REDD plan without biodiversity protection would mean forests would lose their increased resilience to climate change as well as essential ecosystem services. Including biodiversity in a forest protection mechanism like REDD means that projects which include clearing forests to make way for plantations would not be eligible for international forest protection funds.
Right now, delegates from 182 countries are meeting in Bonn, Germany to discuss, for the key negotiating texts. This text could serve as the basis for an ambitious and effective international climate change deal in December.
World leaders must take personal responsibility to agree strong global deal at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009 in order to avert catastrophic climate change. Tropical deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the world’s entire transport sector, so any deal must effectively protect biodiversity, indigenous peoples rights and tackle deforestation.
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