Save Forests by Removing Just One Item From Your Diet

We are what we eat, and right now many of us need to change who we are. Changing one’s diet can be one of the biggest things one does for the environment since we must eat everyday. Researchers have yet again shown that just removing red meat from your diet can make a big difference for the environment.

If removing meat from your diet is too much of a challenge then just reduce your consumption of it. Fighting climate change requires big groups of people making tiny changes so even doing a little can add up to a lot.

The team used a mathematical model that considered increases in population growth, income and livestock demand between 2020 and 2050. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the global increase in beef consumption would require the expansion of pasture areas for grazing and of cropland for feed production, which would double the annual rate of deforestation globally. Methane emissions and agricultural water use would also increase.

Replacing 20% of the world’s per-capita beef consumption with mycoprotein by 2050 would reduce methane emissions by 11% and halve the annual deforestation and associated emissions, compared with the business-as-usual scenario (see ‘Meat substitution’). The mitigating effects on deforestation are so great because, under this scenario, global demand for beef does not increase, so there is no need to expand pasture areas or cropland for feeding cattle, Humpenöder says.

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How Mangroves Manage Climate Change

Dense mangrove forests provide an ecological boost wherever they are found because they protect both land and sea species. They are really ecosystems unto themselves with nuance and each with their own history. That history can help us understand how the delicate forests will survive climate change, we know they have before and now we can understand how we can help them survive our current rapidly changing climate.

Mangroves are also gorgeous!

“The most amazing part of this study is that we were able to examine a mangrove ecosystem that has been trapped in time for more than 100,000 years,” said study co-author Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, a marine ecologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and a Pew Marine Fellow. “There is certainly more to discover about how the many species in this ecosystem adapted throughout different environmental conditions over the past 100,000 years. Studying these past adaptations will be very important for us to better understand future conditions in a changing climate.”

Combining multiple lines of evidence, the study demonstrates that the rare and unique mangrove ecosystem of the San Pedro River is a relict—that is, organisms that have survived from an earlier period—from a past warmer world when relative sea levels were six to nine meters (20 to 30 feet) higher than at present, high enough to flood the Tabasco lowlands of Mexico and reach what today are tropical rainforests on the banks of the San Pedro River.

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The Cambodian Forest Protectors Risking COVID-19

Forest

Deforestation in Cambodia increased dramatically this millennium due to multinational corporations exploiting the country’s natural wealth. Obviously, this removal of trees has bothered people and damages entire ecosystems. As a reaction to the destruction in their area the Prey Lang Community Network (PLCN) launched to police the it local forests. They document and report on illegal logging operations and expose the activity to authorities and other non-governmental organizations.

The work they have done is great, and now with COVID-19 it’s more important than ever before. Cambodia has cut back on their enforcement of environmental laws (like the USA) which has led to an increase in illegal logging that the PLCN is trying to hold back.

The PLCN continues their fight despite the increased workload and risk from COVID-19.

Established in 2000, the PLCN has a core of about a dozen full-time activists across the four provinces spanned by the 432,000-hectare forest, and about 600 “volunteer” members.

Patrollers – many from indigenous groups that live in and around the forest – use GPS technology and a purpose-built smartphone app to log tree stumps, new roads and logging camps.

Their data is paired with publicly available satellite imagery – that has shown deforestation, timber stockpiles and sawmills – and is published periodically with researchers from the University of Copenhagen.

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Thoughtful Reforestation

Forest

Forests make for naturally wonderful carbon sinks and thanks to a myriad of efforts we should see reforestation efforts grow over the next few years. This is all good to witness and we can all help by planting a tree. There are ways to tend to a forest for maximum carbon capture which scientists are hoping to perfect. It’s one thing to have a forest and it’s an even better thing to have a resilient high-quality forest which attracts a diversity of animals.

There are a number of ways that we can ensure new forests are resilient to these impacts. First, having a diversity of species with a wide variety of traits in the forest landscape reduces the risk that a single event will wipe out large parts of the ecosystem. This is because tree species have different resistances and vulnerabilities.

For example, pests and diseases are likely to migrate as the climate changes. In a single-species plantation, that could wipe out the whole forest. But with many different species in the area, parts of the forest will be resilient.

We should also plant and introduce species that are adapted to the future climatic conditions projected for the area. For example, if climate models project a drier climate with increased droughts, then including native species with tolerance to drought would increase the chances of that forest staying resilient, and therefore maintaining its carbon store for longer.

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Iceland Recovering from Deforestation

Long ago, when the vikings first arrived in Iceland the land was forested. Something between 25-40% of the country was covered by trees and humans slowly cut down the trees to an extent that was harmful to local ecosystems. Efforts to replant trees in the country have failed since they brought seeds from outside the country and a warming planet hasn’t been friendly to those trees. Now they are using native species to grow their forests and it’s working.

Thanks to Trevor!

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