FAO, ETH Zurich Highlight Potential of Tree Restoration for Climate Change Mitigation
UN Photo/Eva Fendiaspara
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Scientists used direct measurements of forest cover to generate an open-access map that shows global forest restoration potential.

The map illustrates the potential for the world’s ecosystems to support an additional 0.9 billion hectares of continuous forests.

The authors caution that if the world does not shift from its current trajectory, global potential tree canopy cover could decrease by approximately 223 million hectares by 2050.

5 July 2019: A group of scientists and experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and ETH Zurich identified nearly one billion hectares of degraded land and forests that could be restored to help tackle climate change, and proposed country-level targets for forest restoration.

In an article in Science magazine titled, ‘The Global Tree Restoration Potential,’ the scientists used direct measurements of forest cover to generate an open-access map that shows forest restoration potential around the world. The map shows “how much additional tree cover could exist outside of forests and agricultural and urban land,” illustrating the potential for the world’s ecosystems to support an additional 0.9 billion hectares of continuous forests. Such an increase in forests could reduce atmospheric carbon by about 25 percent while increasing forested areas by over 25 percent. The authors identify global tree restoration “as our most effective climate change solution to date.”

However, the authors caution that climate change is predicted to have an effect on this potential tree coverage. They state that if the world does not shift from its current trajectory, the global potential tree canopy cover could decrease by approximately 223 million hectares by 2050. The majority of tree cover losses are predicted to occur in the tropics. The authors conclude that there is an “urgent need for action” to harness the potential of global tree restoration to support climate change mitigation.

“We already know that restoration can help to reduce biodiversity loss, climate change and rural poverty,” Tiina Vähänen, FAO, explained, but the effects of forest restoration take time to materialize. She called for acting “quickly and effectively to restore areas with appropriate trees and other plants.” [Publication: The Global Tree Restoration Potential] [FAO Press Release]

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