New Study Highlights The Precarious State Of The World’s Primary Forests

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
An estimated 95 percent of the primary forests that existed prior to the advent of agriculture have been lost in non-protected areas, according to new research published online Thursday in the Society for Conservation Biology journal Conservation Letters.
The paper, which was prepared by an international team of experts in forest ecology, conservation biology, international policy and practical forest conservation issues, details what the authors are calling a global analysis of the ecosystem also known as old-growth forests and also features a map illustrating their findings.
[ Watch: What is a Forest? ]
Lead researcher Professor Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and colleagues from organizations such as the US Wildlife Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Geos Institute and Australian National University conclude that primary forest protection is a global concern and should be the responsibility of both developed and developing countries.
In a statement, the Wildlife Conservation Society said that old-growth forests, which are “forests where there are no visible indications of human activities, especially industrial-scale land use, and ecological processes have not been significantly disrupted,” have been “largely ignored by policy makers and under increasing land use threats.”
The organization added that these forests “are home to an extraordinary richness of biodiversity, with up to 57 percent of all tropical forest species dependent on primary forest habitat and the ecological processes they provide.”
Their analysis has determined that nearly 98 percent of all primary forests can be found in 25 countries, and that roughly half of that figure is located in just five developed nations: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
Professor Mackey cautions that human activities such as industrial logging, mining and agriculture pose a grave threat to these forest lands, especially those located outside of protected areas. He also said that new policies were urgently needed in order to reduce the pressure to make primary forests available for industrial land use.
“International negotiations are failing to halt the loss of the world’s most important primary forests,” he explained. “In the absence of specific policies for primary forest protection in biodiversity and climate change treaties, their unique biodiversity values and ecosystem services will continue to be lost in both developed and developing countries.”
“Primary forests are a matter of significant conservation concern. Most forest-endemic biodiversity needs primary forest for their long-term persistence and large intact forest landscapes are under increasingly pressure from incompatible land use,” added co-author James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Mackey, Watson and their colleagues devised four new actions that they believe could serve as a foundation for new international forest-protection policies, starting with the recognition of primary forests as a matter of global concern and not just an issue in developing countries.
They are also calling for the incorporation of these forests into environmental accounting, including acknowledgement of their services to the ecosystem, including freshwater and watershed services, and the use of a science-based definition to distinguish primary forests. In addition, they are calling for policies seeking to avoid further biodiversity loss and emissions from primary forest deforestation and degradation to become a priority.
Finally, they are calling for the universal acceptance of the important role that indigenous and community conserved areas play in the protection of these forests, calling on governments to use this issue as “a mechanism within multilateral environmental agreements to support sustainable livelihoods for the extensive populations of forest-dwelling peoples, especially traditional peoples, in developed and developing countries.”
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