Forests play a very important role in the fight against global warming, but not only by recycling carbon.
It is often said that the Amazon rainforest is the “lung of the planet”. An analysis that may be exaggerated and inaccurate from a scientific point of view, but which clearly demonstrates the role played by forests in the planet’s climatic balance. Indeed, it is now recognized that large green spaces recover nearly 20% of our carbon dioxide emissions are captured by the planet’s forests.
But according to a brand new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, the impact of the forest is far greater than we imagined. Indeed, researchers explain the biophysical consequences of forests. For example, their impact on the water cycle or energy exchanges with the atmosphere, or the roughness of the ground.
The researchers explain that these forest activities have more impact, at the local level, on the good development of fauna and flora than the mechanisms linked to carbon capture. As the scientific article explains, forests act as a thermometer on the planet. In addition to cooling the latter, vegetation also attenuates heat extremes, drought intensity and, at high latitudes, cold extremes.
Forests: the Earth’s thermometer
Yet it is precisely these periods of drought and extreme heat that are at the origin of the greatest ecological disasters. For Déborah Lawrence, lead author of the study: “ people living with deforestation are already suffering the effects of this warmer and more extreme world. Restoring forests would return them to a more livable climate “.
According to this study, it is necessary to take into account the biophysical side of forests and not simply their impact on the carbon present in the atmosphere. The study therefore explains that it is necessary to treat all the effects of forests on a single and same reading plane. By taking all of these factors into question, it is possible to get a better idea of the impact of a forest on the planet, locally and also globally.
Deforestation: the tragedy with multiple consequences
Thus deforestation has several bad effects. If it reduces de facto carbon dioxide scavenging effect, it also exposes land to drought and temperature extremes. This new study shows how the forest is a complex ecosystem “much more than previously thought”, explains Wayne Walker, co-author of the study.
He goes on to explain that “the benefits of keeping forests intact are clear, so it is imperative that we prioritize their protection.” Same story on the side of Louis Verchot, also present in the study who describes forests as “the key to mitigation – of global warming – but also of adaptation”.