Temperate forest restoration places #12 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions. The research team estimates that by 2050, temperate forests will naturally grow by 235 million acres and could sequester 22.61 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions.
One-quarter of the world’s forests are temperate. Spanning 1.9 billion acres around the world, they serve as critical, natural carbon sinks, sequestering an estimated 0.8 gigatons of carbon every year.
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But almost all temperate forests have been disturbed or changed in some way by human activity and development, or by natural causes. Fortunately, forests are strong and, if allowed to, can bounce back. Drawdown says forests as a whole are growing, with land management and forestry practices becoming more sustainable and conservation efforts on the rise.
The chapter makes the case that temperate forests and their carbon-sinking abilities have the potential to thrive even more. The Atlas of Forest and Landscape Restoration Opportunities, a partnership between the World Resources Institute (WRI), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and South Dakota State University, identifies the opportunities for growth. For example, 84% of Ireland has the potential for forest restoration. In the United States, forestland has increased by 33%. Abandoned farmland has proved to be a major source of new growth when forests are allowed to flourish and replace fields.
But temperate forests face several threats, primarily tracing back to climate change and warming temperatures. Drought, heat waves, wildfires, and insect outbreaks are all significant barriers to forest restoration, underscoring the need for adaptive responses. Drawdown notes that preventing forest loss is always the best approach, stressing that “restoration is no replacement for protection”.