UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 28 (Tierramérica) – Current rates of deforestation suggest there will hardly be any tropical forests left in 20 years. Sixty percent of the rainforests, which survived for 50 million consecutive years, are already gone.
However, some experts say widespread planting of previously logged forests offers hope for preserving some of the region’s rich and unique biodiversity.
Recent satellite data have shown that about 350,000 square kilometres of the original forested areas are growing back, Greg Asner of the Washington-based Carnegie Institution said at the Smithsonian symposium Jan. 12 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, also in the U.S. capital.
That is only 1.7 percent of the immense planetary belt of original forest that once covered 20 million square kilometres. Twelve million sq km have already been cleared while another five million have been selectively logged, Asner reported.
“There is going to be lots of tropical forest left in the future but it will be different forest,” says Joseph Wright of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama.
Marginal farmland is being abandoned in the tropics and there is also a large-scale migration of people from rural areas into cities.
“The key question is, what is the conservation value of this land?” Wright told Tierramérica from Washington. “I think there will be a high level of biodiversity.”
Tropical rainforests are estimated to contain 80 percent the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity. They also produce 20 to 30 percent of the world’s oxygen and are part of the planet’s climate regulating system.
Ira Rubinoff, STRI director emeritus, wonders if the new second-growth forest can provide a home to millions of unique tropical species and the same ecosystem services.
“These are not trivial questions. The services tropical forests provide are extremely important for the entire planet,” Rubinoff told Tierramérica.
“We don’t know the answers. We know more about the moon than the Amazon forest,” he added
To see complete story click: CLIMATE CHANGE: Tropical Forests Fight for Survival.