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Global Scale Study Reveals Forest Protection Effectively Decreases Emissions


The total preserved AGC is additionally grouped by continent and biome. PAs effectively maintain additional AGC across continents and biomes, with forest biomes dominating the global signal, particularly in South America. Additional AGC (Gt) preserved in WWF biome classes (total area Gt +/- SEM*). Basic world map made from Natural Earth. The complete set of analyzed GEDI data is represented in this figure (n = 412100767). credit: Nature Communications (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38073-9

A study recently published in Nature Communications By researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD), Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, Conservation International and more, they have found that protected forests worldwide contain an additional 9.65 billion metric tons of carbon stored in above-ground biomass compared to environmentally similar unprotected areas – a score that identifies how important protected areas are in our ongoing efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

This study used high-resolution forest elevation, structure, and surface elevation data produced by NASA to investigate global ecosystem dynamics (GEDI, PI Ralph Dubayah, UMD). The team of researchers compared the effectiveness of protected areas in avoiding emissions to the atmosphere with the ability of unprotected areas to do the same and tested the assumption that protected areas disproportionately provide ecosystem services — including carbon storage and sequestration — than unprotected areas.

“We’ve never had these 3D satellite datasets before, so we’ve never been able to accurately map forest carbon at this scale. Analyzing the data to discover how much emissions are being avoided in protected areas highlights the global importance of forest conservation,” said the professor. UMD associate Laura Duncanson, lead author of the study.”We look forward to continuing this work to monitor the future success of protected areas in carbon conservation.”

The largest positive climate impact noted by the researchers came from the protected wet broadleaf biome in the Brazilian Amazon, with Brazil contributing 36% to the global signal.

Another key finding was that the amount of aboveground biomass — the dry mass of woody matter in the vegetation that stands above the ground — gained from protected areas is roughly equivalent to one year of annual global emissions of fossil fuels.

Previous attempts to estimate biomass content in PAs had high uncertainty and/or biases, as previous satellite biomass products are known to saturate high biomass forests, such as older PAs. GEDI data has helped researchers overcome these limitations.

Specifically, the researchers used the products of height, cover, plant area index (PAI), and aboveground biomass density (AGBD) from the first 18 months of GEDI mission data, which were collected between April 2019 and September 2020. In all, the researchers — which also include Mengyu (Amber) ) Liang, Veronika Leitold, and John Armston – analyzed more than 400 million 3D structure samples and matched each protected area with ecologically similar non-protected areas based on climate, human pressure, land type, country, and other factors.

“These findings are novel in that they provide the long-awaited first evidence that protected areas effectively sequester much carbon dioxide.”2 There’s more to the atmosphere than the similar, degraded regions that surround it, said Scott Goetz, Regents Professor in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Electronic Systems at Northern Arizona University and co-author of the study. For regular spaceborne measurements of canopy structure and biomass above ground from the GEDI Lidar mission.”

The researchers’ study highlights the urgency of protecting and restoring biodiversity conservation and mitigating the effects of climate change, as underlined by the latest report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The IPCC has found that nature-based solutions such as reducing the destruction of forests and other ecosystems, restoring them and improving the management of working lands, such as plantations, are among the solutions. Top five effective strategies to reduce carbon emissions by 2030.

“Protected areas are an essential part of the conservation toolkit. They provide enormous benefits in the form of living carbon, which is needed to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change,” said Patrick Rodans, director of climate change and biodiversity at Conservation International. “This research reflects the importance of the CBD’s goal – of achieving 30 percent protection for all ecosystems – as an effective strategy to tackle more than one of the biggest environmental crises we face: biodiversity loss and climate change.”

more information:
L. Duncanson et al, Effectiveness of Global Protected Areas for Climate Change Mitigation, Nature Communications(2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38073-9

Provided by the University of Maryland

the quote: Study Finds Forest Protection Successfully Reduces Emissions on a Global Scale (2023, June 1) Retrieved June 1, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-06-forest-successfully-emissions-global-scale .html

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