Deforestation and Climate Change Driving Old-Growth Forest Loss

Image: WWF

As Sustainability Times wrote, the planet has been losing much of its forest cover, especially in tropical regions. Over the past three decades, some 420 million hectares of forest have been lost worldwide through deforestation. But deforestation along with numerous other environmental stresses have affected forests in a multitude of ways. A new global analysis reveals the average tree size of remaining forests is dramatically smaller–meaning that we’re losing old-growth forests. 

A primary reason for this, according to researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory who conducted the analysis, is that rising temperatures and growing levels of atmospheric CO2 have been altering the world’s forests through a process called carbon dioxide fertilization. Over the past decades, the age of most forests has declined dramatically

Why This Matters: As CNBC explained, the loss of old-growth forests means that forests now not only have less capacity to store carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels but they are also unable to host certain species that normally reside there. This also means that efforts to plants billions of trees cannot be thought of as a silver bullet to curbing climate change, we must work to conserve existing forests and work to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

Go Deeper: Read about why old-growth forests are so important.

Biodiversity Implications: CNBC also noted that 80% of the world’s land-based species live in forests, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Widespread tree mortality and deforestation has disrupted the habitats of now critically endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan.

Increasing rates of tree mortality driven by climate and land-use change — combined with uncertainty in the mix of species that will form the next generation — pose big challenges for conservationists and forest managers alike,” said Tom Pugh, a scientist at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research and an author of the report.

Up Next

Indigenous Communities File Suit Against Ecuadorian Government to Protect Amazon

Indigenous Communities File Suit Against Ecuadorian Government to Protect Amazon

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Earlier this year, Ecuador’s new President Guillermo Lasso issued decrees to expand oil and mining projects in the Amazon. Indigenous communities from the country’s rainforest are now suing the government in an effort to stop these projects, calling them a “policy of death,” according to reporting by Reuters. Community […]

Continue Reading 320 words
Giant Sequoias Threatened by California Fires 

Giant Sequoias Threatened by California Fires 

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The giant sequoia trees in California’s Sequoia National Park are over 1,000 years old and could live another 2,000 years, but climate change-fueled fires are killing them. The trees can usually withstand the flames, but the intensity of recent fires has been overpowering. Last year’s Castle Fire killed up […]

Continue Reading 385 words
Amazonian Communities Urge International Action & Amazon.com Invests in Restoration

Amazonian Communities Urge International Action & Amazon.com Invests in Restoration

By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor As wildfires and deforestation grip the Amazon rainforest, Indigenous communities are urging world governments to pledge to protect 80% of the forest by 2025. The groups launched their campaign at a biodiversity conference in France, where experts from around the world are laying the groundwork for the UN’s delayed […]

Continue Reading 441 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.