Protected rainforests alleviate global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emission. These forests are bastions of the biodiversity.
In the tropical areas around the world, protected areas have been recognised in order to maintain the nature and the biodiversity from deforestation. They also help keeping lands for indigenous peoples who live there and the historical archaeological sites like Machu Picchu in Peru, an ancient Inca city, classified as a world heritage of culture by the Unesco since 1983.
Biodiversity, a natural fortress
Protected areas – natural reserves, national parks, indigenous reserve, etc. – are an efficient measure that indeed save the Earth’s lungs over the deforestation. They are dedicated to give natural habitats for various endangered wild species like Asian elephants, African forests elephants, Asian lions, jaguars, tigers, orangutans, gorillas,…
20% of the primary forests across the planet are located in protected areas. They act as the last bastion separating these ecosystems rich in biodiversity against threats, also known as deforestation and exploitation of natural resources, for the needs of intensive farming – generally with soy in South America and palm oil in Asia – or with the production of coal, used in Africa for the local cuisine and for heating elsewhere.
However, protected areas are suffering from pressures inside and outside their borders. These pressures can have an impact on biodiversity. According to a study published in the magazine Nature in 2012, among 60 tropical reserves, around 30 of them undergo biodiversity degradation caused by, in particular, diverse ecological disturbances of natural habitats of species, hunting, deforestation near reserves and selective cutting inside reserves.
There are also other factors: forest fires, illegal exploitation of mining resources, pollution of rivers, environmental changes such as climate change. However, researchers remind us that protected areas are really important to save biodiversity, so to speak, to protect protected forests. Some people suggest to implement wider reserves or « mega-reserves ».
As a matter of fact, it is crucial, for the biodiversity, to protect forests from the influence of the man. Another study published in July 2017 in Nature, reveals without any surprise that species of vertebrates have more chances to be classified on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) if they are living in affected areas caused by deforestation. Even at a low level, deforestation generates detrimental consequences which also shows that the simple human intrusion in the most sensitive ecosystems is harmful for the biodiversity. Moreover, the authors of this study lament that the vast majority of particularly insecure areas or hotspots which they located them in Borneo, in Amazonia and in Congo, are still not protected…
According to Survival International, it turns out that 80% of protected areas in the world are also lands of indigenous peoples. In this case, the exploitation of forest resources by the man does not deteriorate the biodiversity but it does the contrary: an evaluation report by the World Bank published in 2009, shows that there are less fires forests – a revealing sign of deforestation – in the protected areas where indigenous communities live rather than the ones where any human presence is forbidden.
This shows that indigenous peoples have a protecting role for the forests and for the biodiversity as well. They have fundamental knowledge about forests as they rely upon them ; and they have developed conservation techniques and sustainable management way before the emergence of environmental awareness in the Western World.
Shield against climate change
Moreover, forests reserves play an essential part on stopping global warming. A study conducted by Daniel P. Bebber and Nathalie Butt, published in October 2017 in the magazine Scientific Reports, claims that protected rainforests curb global warming by simply being left out during deforestation, a major factor of greenhouse gas emissions, in other words, carbon dioxide.
According to these researchers, protected forests areas have helped reduce 29% of carbon dioxide caused by deforestation between 2000 and 2012. In other words, if we had destroyed these forests, 1 492 million of tonne of carbon dioxide would have been emitted in the atmosphere each year or more than three times more the annual emissions in the United Kingdom. Forests in Central America and South America have much more helped this decrease. Next come the Asian forests and African forests.
Tropical forests naturally absorb carbon dioxide on the level of the canopy and the tree roots. This helps ‘remove’ from the atmosphere important quantities of greenhouse gas and slow down global warming. However, this regulation of the climate is too slow to compensate hellish pace of the deforestation in the tropical areas. They are responsible of 10% of carbon dioxide emissions related to human activities. Massive deforestation emit twice more carbon dioxide that can not be stored in forests left intact.
Let us protect tropical forests
Ultimately, when we establish protected forest reserves help not only saving various endangered species but also they become an essential way to fight against global warming. If we are still waiting more measures from the governments, it does not stop us from taking actions on our level while staying informed and supporting organisations committed to the protection of biodiversity hotspots :
Let us save the forest (Sauvons la forêt) stands up for the preservation of tropical forests around the planet by supporting local NGO (Non Governmental Organisations).
With its forest programme, WWF has for mission to fight against deforestation, protect forests, encourage their sustainable management and ‘clean’ them as much as possible.
Floriane Boyer, EVI editor.