Nursery at the Reserva Ecologica Guapiacu in the federal state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Nursery at the Reserva Ecologica Guapiacu in the federal state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Photo: Robin Chazdon

23.08.2019

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Humans have already cleared vast tracts of the tropical rain forest, a process which should ideally be reversed for the sake of the climate and the environment. But which rain forests are priorities for restoration? Scientists are trying to answer this question by identifying sites where restoration would be particularly promising.

More than half of the original tropical rain forest has been cleared. A reversal is in prospect, at least in some parts, as restoration is embodied in international agreements on nature conservation (Convention on Biological Diversity) and the Paris Agreement. “We’ve identified hotspots for renaturation, areas where restoration of the tropical rain forest would be particularly helpful. Together, these hotspots cover around 101 million hectares worldwide, roughly the area of Spain and Sweden,” explains Dr Aidin Niamir, researcher at Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany.

Niamir worked with international colleagues, studying satellite images to see where tropical lowland rain forests could be regenerated worldwide. The team of researchers calculated the benefits of restoration for these areas, giving positive weight in their balance sheet to the contribution to protecting biodiversity, capturing carbon dioxide, assisting adaptation to climate change and water storage. They made deductions for the costs of restoration and the likelihood that restoration would not lead to a return of the associated biodiversity or that the trees would be logged again in the short term.

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