We can save forests together . The activities such as agriculture, ranching and power generation are transforming the earth’s landscapes. Forests and their biodiversity are rapidly being wiped out around the world. We are threatening our own survival. Is it possible to design friendly landscapes where biodiversity and humans can coexist in a sustainable way?
Our recent study indicates yes, and we know how to do it. Decades of research on how species respond to the loss, fragmentation, and degradation of their natural habitats have allowed us to understand their ecological requirements. Based on this knowledge we can identify the most urgent and efficient conservation measures.
As we detail in the work, there are four steps to follow to achieve landscapes that benefit biodiversity and promote human well-being at the same time.
Step 1: stop deforestation
The first and most urgent thing is to stop deforestation. Forests are home to most of the terrestrial species on the planet. Deforestation is considered the greatest threat to biodiversity.
About 50% of all the trees in the world have disappeared since the beginning of human civilization. Today. People cut down more than 15 billion trees each year (about 500 trees per second).
About 43% of the remaining trees (3.04 trillion) are tropical and subtropical forests. These are currently the most deforested in the world. Therefore, if we want to prevent the extinction of millions of species on the planet, we must stop deforestation.
Step 2: recover the lost forest
In many regions, the remaining forest is insufficient to ensure the future of biodiversity. Therefore, restoring lost forest is a priority, especially in the landscapes that need it most.
But how much forest should we keep in the landscape? Our review indicates that a conservative figure is to have at least 40% of the landscape covered by forest. This figure supports recent proposals to conserve half the planet. This percentage may be too low to preserve tropical species. In the tropics we should conserve a higher percentage of forests.
Step 3: preserve lots of small areas
Conservation (step 1) and restoration (step 2) should not focus on a few large areas, but on many small areas.
Each forest fragment can contain unique species, and therefore a larger set of small fragments usually contains more species than a few large fragments. In addition, people alsoreduce the increasing number of fragments in the landscape and the distance between them. It facilitates the movement of species and their obtaining of resources.