By Marianne Areng

Can human interference solve the problems caused by deforestation, or are we just making it worse?

Modern man’s involvement in nature have resulted in massive losses of woodlands and deterioration of the global climate. But recent studies suggest a change in the relationship between man and nature. According to scientists at the university of Helsinki research shows an increase, not in volume, but the density in large forested areas. Trees have grown both larger  and more frequent over the past few decades in already forested areas. Evidently, the increase in the amount of carbon absorbed by forests through photosynthesis reduces the global carbon footprint. However, research also shows that the increase in density only applies to certain areas, specifically in Asia and Europe. Forests in more tropical climates like South-America and Africa, are disappearing faster than they can grow. Many countries have taken action through policy development and are continuing to find practical solutions to solve deforestation issues.

One such measure is the replanting of forests. In China, an ambitious reforestation program has added 30.000 square miles to the country’s forests every year over the past decade. However, in regions such as South America and Africa, the forests continue to disappear. These recent developments beg the question: will human interference and an increasing forest density,
give a solution to deforestation and climate change?

There is no denying the dire situation of forest loss, but taking active measures can be a way of making amends for the mess we made in the first place. Several projects have been initiated to preserve the biodiversity in rainforests, but these projects focus first and foremost on reduction in carbon released into the atmosphere, as this has a global impact. One initiative with this focus is the UN led REDD+ programme. Its aim is to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests by offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. In initiating such incentives human involvement in nature counteracts the negative effects in sort of a transition management approach and now has the ability to make changes to at least one consequence of deforestation, carbon emission.

A decrease in carbon footprint is great news, but the ecological consequences of losing the diversity in areas where forests are continuing to decrease may have greater implications. From an environmentalist view this solution only offer more challenges. Looking again to China, green campaigners claim the predominant part of trees planted in this region consist of one species only: Eucalyptus. In addition to being monocultural, eucalyptus tend to extract large amounts of moisture from the soil, preventing growth of other plants. In other areas, the same lack of diversity in newly planted timber woods is a challenge, like for instance the Sitka Spruce in Norway. The lack of diversity in some reforestation projects may present an issue by making it more challenging for certain species of vegetation and wildlife to thrive. Despite the efforts to stabilize the growth through replanting, the positive results of reducing carbon footprint may also lose its storage effects. This is because trees only hold the carbon until they are cut down. According to national geographic, farming and agriculture is one of the main reasons why sections of rainforest the size of Panama are still lost every year.While existing forests are being cut down through human activity it is unlikely to think the storage effects of newly planted trees will make a greater impact. It may seem the effects of replanting is not as effective as expected.

In the end it might come down to choice between carbon reduction and biodiversity, with carbon currently in the lead. Ironically, part of the reason why climate change is an issue is because of loss of biodiversity. Yet, carbon reduction may be a step in the right direction in initiating new policy and interfering with nature through more positive agendas.