A new study from the beginning of this year conducted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre shows that climate change is weakening forests around the world.
Why are forests so important?
Forests regulate not only the water cycle, they also protect the soil and its biodiversity. Most importantly perhaps, they absorb one-third of human-caused carbon emissions. This means that forests are important for all life on earth, including human life. Climate change is on the rise, and emissions are not being cut enough. Fortunately, trees and plants have the capacity to absorb them. Therefore, it is important to protect them.
Next to the environmental and biological benefits forests give us, they are also used and loved by many people for recreational activities. The stillness of the forest is something very relaxing for many people, especially if it allows them to escape their turbulent and always on-the-run big-city life.
Results of the new study
The new study, conducted by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, comes to the conclusion that forests are being damaged by climate change. What exactly does that mean for the future of forests?
In the future, damaged trees will not be able to recover so well; they will not be as resilient as they used to be. The researchers working on the study focused on the time span of 20 years, namely from 2000 until 2020. They showed that in those years the recovery rates of forests became slower, meaning that after disturbances these forests took more time to restore themselves. Interestingly, however, on the northern part of the globe, the forest became more resilient. There, the boreal forest and the much cooler climate have different effects on it. The study showed that the warming and CO2 fertilisation effect outweigh the negative impacts of climate change.
Method used in the study
With advancing technology, the possibilities in science and research constantly increase. The researchers of this study also made use of this and used an algorithm based on machine learning to analyse satellite images according to changes in their greenness. To be specific, the algorithm allowed scientists to see how fast forests recovered after disruptions or catastrophes.
Not all forests around the world and their resilience have the same reaction to climate change after disturbances. Nonetheless, looking at the overall picture the forest gives us all around the world, it shows a rather bleak, negative outlook for the future. Forests are vital for all life on earth and need to be protected as much as possible, so that future generations can still enjoy this planet’s great nature and wilderness.