Scientists have warned about the precarious state of the world's primary forests, as a new study shows that say just 22% of these forests are located in protected areas, equivalent of only 5% of the original ones.
Brendan Mackey, Director of the Climate Change Response Program at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, said that international negotiations are failing to halt the loss of the world's most important primary forests and 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.
According to the study, primary forest, which are home to an extraordinary richness of biodiversity, comprises of up to 57% of all tropical forest species and the ecological processes and protection is the joint responsibility of developed as well as developing countries and is a matter of global concern.
The analysis shows that almost 98 per cent of primary forest is found within 25 countries, with around half of that located in five developed countries: the U.S., Canada, Russia, Australia and New Zealand and researchers said that policies are urgently needed to reduce pressure to open up primary forests for industrial land use.
The authors identified four new actions that would provide a solid policy foundation for key international negotiations, including forest-related multilateral agreements to help ensure primary forests persist into the 21st century, which includes recognizing primary forests as a matter of global concern within international negotiations and not just as a problem in developing nations, incorporating primary forests into environmental accounting, including the special contributions of their ecosystem services (including freshwater and watershed services), and use a science-based definition to distinguish primary forests.
The scientists also said that prioritizing the principle of avoided loss is important, as people need to emphasize policies that seek to avoid any further biodiversity loss and emissions from primary forest deforestation and degradation and should universally accept the important role of indigenous and community conserved areas – governments could use primary forest protection 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.
The study was published in the journal Conservation Letters.