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‘We need to act’: Scientists urge prioritization of intact forests

26 / 02 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

When it comes to habitat quality and ecosystem services, research has shown that natural landscapes do it best. A new study, published today in Nature, adds fodder to this argument, describing how intact forests are critically important for mitigating climate change, maintaining water supplies, safeguarding biodiversity and even protecting human health. However, it warns that global policies aimed at reducing deforestation are not putting enough emphasis on the preservation of the world’s dwindling intact forests, instead relying on a one-size-fits-all approach that may end up doing more harm than good. Intact forests are large areas of connected habitat free from human-caused disturbance. From the Amazon rainforest in South America to the taiga that rings the Arctic, the Earth’s intact forests provide a diverse array of unbroken habitats for many – if not most – of the planet’s terrestrial wildlife. But intact forests are disappearing. An analysis released last year found that, overall, the world lost more than 7 percent of its intact forest landscapes in just over a decade, a trend that appears to be accelerating. Zooming in, the analysis reveals bigger losses for specific regions: 10.1 percent in Africa, 13.9 percent in Southeast Asia, nearly 22 percent in Australia. At the country level, Paraguay came out particularly bad, losing almost 80 percent of its intact forest landscapes between 2000 and 2013. Satellite data show only a few tracts of intact forest remain in Paraguay. The driving force behind these losses varies depending on location, but agriculture, logging and road…

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