Conserving old forests should be a first step in climate mitigation
A lot of conversation has gone on in the past couple of years about reforesting and planting new trees. In fact, one of my previous newsletters talked exclusively about reforesting around the world. But climate change mitigation and initiatives is new, wide, and fast-changing. We're all learning how to save our home as we're doing it.
So, as we all learn and change our position on things, I've recently changed my position on reforestation efforts. I still think the intent of it is wonderful, and in certain specific, well-managed cases it can be a great option.
But for companies or individuals looking to invest in climate change mitigation strategies, it turns out that forest conservation will likely have a larger, more positive impact.
After talking with experts in the climate space, in the current landscape it seems that conserving existing forests is a better investment for our money because tree planting programs often have little to no oversight, the sequestration of carbon from newer trees is quite low compared to carbon sequestration of older trees, and tree management.
Old growth forests, however, sequester more carbon, have greater ecological biodiversity, and are more resilient than new growth forests alone. So, if we have to choose where to spend our money (conservation vs. planting), conservation is more impactful and better for the environment.
By putting money towards conserving existing, old forests, we have a better way of measuring the positive impact not only for carbon capture, but also the positive impact on biodiversity. That's not to say we shouldn't also plant trees in forests that have been cut. Remember, we can do both! But rather, we should change how we think about this: _first_conserve the old and middle growth forests we already have, and then reforest areas that have been cut down.
There are some pretty fascinating articles and conversations supporting the initiative for conserving existing forests rather than spending money on new planting.
Check out some of these resources and learn more about forest conservation!
- Leaving trees alone might be better than planting new ones
- Q&A with Dr. Bonnie Waring (ecologist): Is planting trees the answer to climate change?
- Why Keeping Mature Forests Intact Is Key to the Climate Fight