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Deforestation and COP26

November 5th, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

It is very nice to see that COP26 have decided to halt deforestation and accelerate the restoration of natural ecosystems (link). We hope this time it will be effective and quick. Past attempts such as REDD+ or the 2014 New York Declaration on Forest (PDF) had limited success; deforestation (logging and clearing for farming or mining) continued even in regions with high biodiversity value (e.g., the Amazon rainforests, the savannas of Cerrado, the dry forest of the Chaco, and Indonesian closed-canopy tropical forests; Figs. 1,2,3,4 below). Deforestation and forest fragmentation are also the main reasons behind the large number of fires occurring in rainforests (native rainforests are non-flammable).

We also hope the COP26 decision will stimulate the conservation not only of forests but also other ecosystems with high biodiversity values, including wetlands, savannas, grasslands, and shrublands. For instance, Brazilian savannas are well recognized as a biodiversity hotspots (Cerrado region) and it is the area that have lost most of their natural habitat in Brazil (Fig. 2), followed by the Pantanal (world’s largest tropical wetland). Note that wetlands provide multiple benefits, including biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and the conservation of the water cycle (and of the climate). Similarly, the Paraguayan Dry Chaco is quickly losing the native vegetation (Fig. 3).

Fig. 1. Examples of fast deforestation in two areas with high biodiversity value (in the Brazilian Amazon): Fishbone type deforestation pattern between 2000 and 2019 (top), and rectangular type deforestation pattern between 2013 and 2017 (bottom). The most deforested images (right) also show the smoke from fires associated with deforestation. Source: NASA Earth Observatory
Fig. 2. Native habitat lost in Brazil (as proportion of the area, between 1985 and 2020) by states (left) and by biogeographic regions (right). Source: elaborated from data in MapBiomas.org
Fig. 3. Deforestation in different South American ecosystems, from https://insights.trase.earth/insights/cop26-must-commit-to-zero-deforestation/
Fig. 4. Degradation of Indonesian ecosystems: Annual primary forest cover loss (in Mha) in Sumatra and Kalimantan (a), and remaining forest cover in 2001 and 2019 in peatland (b) and non-peatland (c) ecosystems. Deforestation of peatlands and artificial drainage are major cause of peatland fires in the area, and those fire are a major sources of CO2 emissions. From Nikonovas et al. (2020).

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