An area of forests the size of France has regrown naturally across the world since 2000, according to a two-year study published on May 11.
Nearly 59 million hectares of forests have grown back worldwide in the last 20 years and have the potential to store the equivalent of 5.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which is more than the annual emissions of the United States, according to the study by Trillion Trees, a joint project between the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), BirdLife International, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The study showed that an estimated 4.2 million hectares — roughly the size of Netherlands — in the Atlantic Forest in Brazil have regrown due to conservation efforts and “responsible” industry practices.
The study also suggested that 1.2 million hectares of forest have regrown in northern Mongolia due to efforts of WFF and the government.
Forests in Central Africa and Canada have also regrown, the study showed.
The researchers examined 30 years of satellite imaging data and had surveying experts with on-the-ground knowledge to construct a map of the regenerated forests.
“We’ve known for a long time that natural forest regeneration is often cheaper, richer in carbon, and better for biodiversity than actively planted forests, and this research tells us where and why regeneration is happening, and how we can recreate those conditions elsewhere,” WWF Nature-based Solutions Director William Baldwin-Cantello said in a statement.
However, the study also warned that forests continue to face “significant threats.”
“Globally, we are still losing forests at a terrifying rate, much faster than we are able to restore them,” the study stated.
“The science is clear: if we are to avoid dangerous climate change and turn around the loss of nature, we must both halt deforestation and restore natural forests,” Baldwin-Cantello stated.
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