Why restore degraded and deforested lands?
For economic reasons as well as the most pressing environmental ones, we should commit ourselves to forest and landscape restoration. Putting back lost forests and reviving landscapes can restore their vital functions, cool the planet, protect wildlife and rescue lives, sustainably and economically.
Some people might ask, isn’t it enough to simply put the brakes on deforestation? Do we also need to actively restore cleared landscapes?
The damage has been done – but it can be reversed.
Everyone knows that deforestation has accelerated global warming; that having fewer trees and less forest has left more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and left our planet more exposed to the sun. Regenerating and revitalizing forests as part of landscape restoration projects would give us back some of that capacity to sequester carbon and slow down climate change.
But there are plenty of other reasons why we need to start reversing the spiral of loss and degradation. Healthy, fertile landscapes provide homes for wildlife and human life, providing food, clean water and materials for shelter. Sustainably cultivated and farmed woodlands yield biofuel and raw products that can be worked or processed for trade, stimulating local industry and creating jobs.
There are opportunities to grow new crops where trees once stood that can be harvested for agriculture. Trees in agricultural landscapes could improve soil moisture and fertility, and boost food production. And responsible tourism and other services can be developed as part of the rehabilitation mix. All of these forms of sustainable enterprise can inject new income and new life into threatened communities, relieving poverty and funding improvements in education.
The environmental rewards of landscape rehabilitation are huge. The economic rewards are just as great. It has been estimated that the restoration of 150 million hectares of former forest land around the world – as promised by the Bonn Challenge – would pump US$ 85billion a year into national and global economies.
It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to waste.