Scientists Urge Creating Strategic Forest Reserves To Mitigate Climate Change, Protect Biodiversity

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: The United States should immediately move to create a collection of strategic forest reserves in the Western U.S. to fight climate change and safeguard biodiversity, according to a scientific collaboration led by an Oregon State University ecologist. Bev Law, her College of Forestry colleague William Ripple and other scientists from around the West argue that climate change and biodiversity are inextricably linked and that strategic forest reserves would tackle both "emergencies" while also promoting the protection of water resources. Describing the U.S.'s natural wooded systems as "America's Amazon" and forest protection as "the lowest-cost climate mitigation option," the researchers emphasize older forests' ability to accumulate massive amounts of carbon in trees, vegetation and soils, to provide homes for wildlife and to serve as sources of water for drinking and other uses. The scientists note that multiple nations have pledged to meet goals commonly known as 30x30 and 50x50; the former calls for protecting 30% of land and water areas globally by 2030, the latter 50% by 2050. Hitting the 50x50 target is widely viewed as necessary for ensuring the Earth's biodiversity, the researchers say. [...] The scientists note that multiple nations have pledged to meet goals commonly known as 30x30 and 50x50; the former calls for protecting 30% of land and water areas globally by 2030, the latter 50% by 2050. Hitting the 50x50 target is widely viewed as necessary for ensuring the Earth's biodiversity, the researchers say. The framework produces preservation priority rankings by using spatial metrics of biodiversity, carbon stocks and accumulation under climate change and future vulnerability to drought or wildfire. In the West the highest priority forestlands are mainly under federal ownership, with substantial areas controlled by private entities and state and tribal governments. Many federal forest lands would reach GAP 2 protection simply by phasing out grazing, mining and logging and strengthening protection via administrative rule. Inventoried roadless areas make up almost 42 million acres of national forest in the West and are readily available for permanent protection. The researchers lay out their framework for developing the reserves in a paper published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment. "GAP 1, as defined by the U.S. Geological Survey, refers to permanent protection such as wilderness areas and national parks, where natural disturbances such as fire can proceed without interference or are mimicked via management activities," notes Phys.Org. "On GAP 2 lands, uses or practices that degrade the quality of existing natural communities, such as road building, may be allowed, and suppression of natural disturbances is allowed as well."

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