Forest-biodiversity-loss harms us all!

Researchers from 30 countries have collected and analyzed forest data set from 777,126 sample plots, located in 44 countries. In total, they measured over 30 million trees of 8,737 different species. The analyzed area represented the most terrestrial biomes, from tropical forests to boreal. The main objective was to establish a global relationship between biodiversity (measured in number of tree species) and forest productivity (measured in timber volume and value). Results showed that a continued biodiversity loss results in an accelerating decline in forest productivity worldwide.

Researchers analyzed data from the most important global repositories of terrestrial biodiversity in 44 countries over the world, i.e. Korea, Australia, Alaska, Brazil or Russia. Therefore, enourmous collaboration and effort among scientist from differents countries of the world was essential in this study. 

During data analysis, researchers found that the continued loss of biodiversity significantly reduces the timber production, causing annual losses between 150,000 and 450,000 million euros. This amount is more than twice what it would cost to take effective conservation measures on a global scale!

The calculation of the economic profit associated with maintaining biodiversity has only been done in relation to the value of resources derived from wood. This means that the actual benefit provided by biodiversity is greater because in this assessment has not taken in account the rest ot the contributuions that the whol society gets from the forests in the form of different ecosystem services.

At the present, deforestation and climate change, among other factors, threaten about half of the tree species of the world. This study concludes that the benefit we get preserving our forest ecosystems and their diversity exceeds the cost of the management and maintenance a global scale.

Global effect of tree species diversity on forest productivity. Source: Liang et al. (2016)

What is the current situation?

The loss of global forest productivity caused by loss of diversity may reduce the ability of forests to store carbon. This is very important becuase the Mediterranean region is a particulary vulnerable area to climate change. Maintaining greater diversity of species in our forests can also increase the adaptability and resilience of our forests agianst the global change.

However, the forest related threats are different, depending on the place in the world. While in the Amazon there is a problem of progressive deforestation, much of Europe’s forest area increases progressively year after year by the progressive afforestation of abandoned agricultural lands. One may say, that this is only gain in amount, but not necessarily in quality.

Our society has been urbanized, which has gradually disconnected rural areas and distorted perception of the importance of the management of natural resources as an “engine of development”. Often the forest is perceived as a purely recreational value and landscape beauty, but around the world (also in Europe), many people depend on forest resources to live and to survive.

As a society, we often get conflicting interpretations: from one side we want to move towards renewable energy, sustainable use of resources, significant reduction of forest fires, but from the other one, a part of the society still consider harvesting and managing forests as a bad activity. 

It is a pedagogical challenge to reconnect the whole society to natural resources and help to understand that forest management is necessary for the conservation of our forest ecosystems and their biodiversity. A society that perceives the importance of forests in all its aspects will cause the value of forest resources will increase and this will lead to the creation of socio-econoic fabric in a healthier society from the environmental point of view.

In fact, the conclusions of this study published in the prestigious journal Science, contribute to reinforce the idea that the conservation of forest ecosystems through sustainable and responsible management is a key to development of the humanity. 

Source: Liang et al. 2016. Positive biodiversity-productivity relationship predominant in global forests. Science, Vol 354, Issue 6309.

Image: Forestry Technological Centre of Catalonia


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