Restoration of Tropical Forests places #5 on the Drawdown list of climate solutions, with potential to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide by 61.23 gigatons by 2050.
Drawdown reports that the Earth’s tropical forests urgently need rehabilitation: “Once blanketing 12% of the world’s land masses, they now cover 5%.” That loss has dire consequences, both for global biodiversity and for humans and other species that depend on the forests for their survival.
Tropical forest restoration is also a key climate objective, since the dense vegetation and rich soil found in tropical forests sequester carbon at a level unmatched anywhere else in the world. Deforestation releases carbon into the atmosphere, at a current annual volume of close to 20% of total global emissions.
Fortunately, Drawdown says the commitment and capacity to restore Earth’s tropical forests are intensifying. But critical to making good on that commitment will be the recognition that “restoring a forest means more than making it ecologically robust again. It needs to be socially and economically viable or, better yet, valuable—a source of pride and profit, play and provisions for local communities at large. ”
Champions of collaborative reforestation abound at the regional and national levels, as local governments increasingly comprehend their forests as “dynamic engines of human sustenance and well-being.” But forest restoration is costly, and many of the countries committed to restoration projects are very much in need of financial support from the international community.
But Drawdown notes that the return on forest restoration investments will be considerable, citing estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature: While the cumulative global target of 865 million acres restored by 2030 could cost as much as US1$ trillion, such actions “could generate $170 billion per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields, and forest products,” while sequestering up to 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.
From both socio-economic and ecological points of view, tropical reforestation can be the gift that keeps on giving. But Drawdown cautions that “restoration cannot be down in the halls of power alone. It starts and ends on the ground.” In the end, tropical forests will thrive—and sequester their vast stores of carbon—only if the millions of humans who inhabit them thrive, as well.