The simple, yet elusive, key to fighting the climate crisis

(Eco Business, 8 May 2019) Preserving and restoring forests is an effective step toward mitigating climate change, and comes with a host of other benefits.

new scientific report finds human behaviors are driving the extinction of non-human species at a rate so severe that the subsequent disappearance of life will soon be a threat to human health and prosperity. Habitat destruction on land, over-fishing in the seas and overconsumption across much of the globe, among other things, now threaten to extinguish up to a million species in the near future.

The hundreds of scientists who produced the landmark United Nations assessment say myriad solutions are needed to address and, hopefully reverse, this trend. Underpinning much of the loss is the growing global impact of climate change. One of the major tactics at humanity’s disposal is effectively managing and restoring the world’s forests—preservation and conservation efforts that could, quite literally, change the world.

To see what can be preserved — or lost — look at a Google Earth image of the Rio Coco river, which forms much of the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. Toward the east, the river cuts through the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, also known as La Mosquitia — one of the largest contiguous forest systems north of the Amazon. Dubbed the “Amazon of Central America,” it is home to several indigenous groups, is a hotspot of biodiversity and contains a trove of archeological wonders — like a massive undiscovered pre-Columbian city. The difference between intact forests on the Nicaraguan side and degraded hills on the Honduran side is quite apparent.

“Forests like La Mosquitia preserve biodiversity, mitigate climate change, are important for watersheds, disaster resiliency and provide sustenance for people that live in them — in short, they provide a huge array of ecosystem services,” Says John Polisar, program officer at the Wildlife Conservation Society. ”You need to protect the forest from cattle ranching and narco-deforestation, but you also need to focus on how to make sustainable livelihoods from the forest. They go hand in hand.”

This is the central dilemma for climate scientists in regards to land in general — and especially forests. They can both sequester large amounts of carbon in things like trees and soil, but also be a huge source of CO2 when that carbon is lost through activities like agriculture, logging or wildfire.

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Eco Business, 8 May 2019: The simple, yet elusive, key to fighting the climate crisis