The Need to Protect Intact Forests

February 26, 2018

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Photo Credit: ©Carlos Cesar Durigan/WCS

The value of the Earth's remaining intact forests are on full display in a new paper published today in Nature Ecology & Evolution. These forests help us address climate change and protect wildlife, plus critical watersheds, indigenous cultures, and human health.

Yet the global policy and science communities do not differentiate among the relative values of different types of forest landscapes—which range from highly intact ones to those which are heavily logged, fragmented, burnt, drained and/or over-hunted—due in part to the lack of a uniform way of measuring their quality.

With over 80 percent of forests already degraded by human and industrial activities, today’s findings underscore the immediate need for international policies to secure remaining intact forests—including establishing new protected areas, securing the land rights of indigenous peoples, regulating industry and hunting, and targeting restoration efforts and public finance.

Absent specific strategies like these, current global targets addressing climate change, poverty, and biodiversity may fall short.

"As vital carbon sinks and habitats for millions of people and imperilled wildlife, it is well known that forest protection is essential for any environmental solution—yet not all forests are equal,” said Professor James Watson of WCS and the University of Queensland in a statement. “Forest conservation must be prioritized based on their relative values—and Earth’s remaining intact forests are the crown jewels, ones that global climate and biodiversity policies must now emphasize.”

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