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The thinning fabric of Earth’s forest cover (commentary)

24 / 09 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

Forests don’t have it easy. Even when they escape being cleared for farmland, pastures, or cities, many of them are battered by a variety of other human pressures. Damage to forests (often termed degradation) is by definition less severe in a given location than outright deforestation, but it affects much larger areas — and so, in aggregate, may be just as big a problem for the global environment. The ever-smaller number of forests that remain truly intact and free from degradation are a precious resource, pivotal in addressing the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss as well as offering many other benefits to people. But are we taking good care of them? Not yet. Imagine being parachuted into the heart of one of our last big rainforests and hiking out to a settled area. For the first part of your walk (for many days, if you were lucky) the forest would be in its more or less natural state, and you would see a high, dense canopy; a mostly open, shady understory; and many signs of large-bodied wildlife. Well before you reached the forest edge, though, huntable animals would become sparser, logging trails more frequent, the canopy more open, trees smaller, and the understory would be more overgrown, hotter, and drier. Approaching the forest edge, you would fight through low, jungly thickets dotted with tree stumps but lacking most larger animals. As you moved into the surrounding farm lands you would notice sad, scattered forest fragments with a…

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