National Geographic‘s May issue focuses on “Saving Forests” because, as the issue’s many gorgeous photos and maps detail, forests are “key to protecting the planet.” Forests are the lungs of the planet, breathing in and sequestering carbon and breathing out oxygen. But researchers are discovering more details about how important forests are to biodiversity, cooling, water cycle management, soil protection, and more. Protecting the health of the planet’s forests, in other words, should be a key strategy in climate mitigation. This is especially true for the planet’s biggest forest systems in the Amazon, Congo, and Southeast Asia. But everything counts.
Here’s a piece in The Guardian
that summarizes some of the new research
on what forests do. Bottom line: “Better protection, expansion and improved management of the world’s forests are considered by many experts as among the most promising nature-based solutions.” For the wonkishly inclined, here comes the actual science
In light of all this, I was pleased to see that back on Earth Day, President Biden signed an Executive Order full of goodies meant to help protect America’s forests and to support forest protection abroad (link below). The order presents four categories of investment:
- protecting old-growth forests on federal lands, especially from wildfire risk
- working on reforestation (including for “forest product” purposes, but OK)
- combatting global deforestation
- deploying “nature-based solutions that reduce emissions and build resilience.”
The details are interesting. For instance, I’m always surprised that these sorts of initiatives have to start… with mapping! We don’t even know what we’ve got, essentially, so we have to map our forests. Another data project: the Office of Management and Budget will be asked to put dollar amounts on what forests provide in terms of “ecosystem services” (i.e., not just board feet of lumber). I note a welcome call to listen to and heed Traditional Ecological Knowledge, which is to say, indigenous peoples’ wisdom. And I appreciate the parts about figuring out how to “combat commodity-driven deforestation” internationally, a particular problem with the beef, soy, and palm oil industries.
Well, as with all ambitious plans like these: we’ll see.