Rain Forests Rising?

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Biologists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama are suggesting that the rain forests may not be doing so badly after all. While it's certainly true that original rain forest is being destroyed at an unprecedented rate, until recently biologists have ignored the effect of secondary forests, which are growing on land that was once farmed, logged, or destroyed by natural disaster.  According to the New York Times, "By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics." 

Environmentalists argue that this secondary forest is not as valuable as the original rain forest, but scientists at the Smithsonian and the United Nations point out that the new forests could blunt the effects of rain forest destruction by absorbing carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas linked to global warming.

Farming lands have been abandoned as previously agricultural people seek higher-paying jobs in cities, and more efficient farming techniques that require less acreage to produce food means that more land can revert to its natural state.

The United Nations is undertaking the first global catalog of the new forests, which vary greatly in their stage of growth.

Photo by Tito Herrera for the New York Times

Link - via pajamasmedia

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by Marilyn Terrell.


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Carbon sequestration is a good thing, and secondary forests are valuable, but to shift the focus away from primary forest is stupid.
There are many measures of diversity, and while secondary forests may have a large number of species, many species, and certain habitats just don't do well in them.
This story does not represent a consensus even within the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Joe Wright has some good and interesting data, but many other scientists object to the way this data is being interpreted to affect policy decisions.
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We've only identified approx. 5% of all the species on the planet right now. The rest? Live in the rainforest and the ocean, both of which we are destroying without concern that we'll never even know what once existed there. That includes cures for diseases we'll never find, as well.

New growth is good, but it can't replace all the things that go extinct whenever an ancient tree with it's own ecosystem (yes...some species are specific to a single tree!) is cut down. Do you know why they slash & burn? Some is for hardwood for furniture. Most is when starving farmers follow those trails, and ruin them to plant corn fields that just can't thrive in that new climate, so they fail and then they have to slash more. This is not over, Brazil just admitted they were cutting down 4 times more rainforest they had been owning up to.

Josh, saying the earth is constantly evolving is frighteningly ignorant in this case. People are an anomaly, we've bucked evolution by inventing tools that changed the world completely. We can cause more damage than we can repair. This is not evolution, it's not natural. If a rainforest turns into a desert, the seeds are still there right? If we slash and burn and carry away all the refuse, nothing can grow again. I'm not a perfect person who lives a pristine life, but I have some respect for the impact we have on ourselves. Climate change is natural, but the way we've impacted it is not, and we're the only ones who will care when the planet is unhospitable to us.

My point is that we should be careful when we don't know what we're dealing with, and we definitely have no idea of what kind of damage we are doing when we demand that our lifestyle continues without thinking of the consequences.
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When will people get it though their heads that Earth is a evolving planet. It will not stay exactly the same for billions of years. It will change and continue to change. Deserts will become rain forests and then back to deserts. It is a cycle of the planet and nothing will change that. Same can be said for climate change. The earth will warm and then it will cool. No matter what we do will will not be able to stop this process. If we do we will harm the planet far more by altering its own balance.
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