Explained: Imperils of changing climate and impact on forest species


oi-Deepika S


Updated: Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 15:51 [IST]

New Delhi, Aug 20: The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the last five decades. The impact of this staggering loss goes beyond wildlife.

The health of forest species is intrinsically linked to the health of forests overall and the health of people and the planet.


The study, titled “Below The Canopy,” tracked the researchers found that the 455 monitored populations of 268 forest-dwelling species dropped an average of 53 percentage points during the 44 years, with an annual rate of decline of 1.7 per cent.

The report authors say the decline was particularly steep between 1970 and 1976 but reversed in the final two years of the index. They cannot say whether this reversal was temporary or is indicative of a longer-term trend.

Climate change and forest species

Forests are home to more than half of land-based species all who provide essential functions, such as pollinating and dispersing seeds, to keep forests healthy.

When forests are healthy, they help purify our air and water, prevent floods, provide people with food and jobs, and so much more. They also store and absorb carbon. Vitally, these carbon sinks help shield the planet against the effects of climate change.

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According to the study, a decline in forest vertebrates has “serious consequences for forest integrity and climate change, because of the role that particular vertebrate species play in forest regeneration and carbon storage. Other essential functions for forest ecosystems performed by animals include pollination and seed dispersal.

If we are to reverse the decline in biodiversity worldwide and avoid a climate crisis, we need to safeguard forests and the species that live in them.

As climate change intensifies, nature’s value is only increasing. It will play an essential role in helping human societies cope with the inevitable consequences of rising global temperatures.

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These include rising sea levels, more extreme rainfall, more frequent droughts and more frequent and intense storms all impacts that NATO and the Pentagon recognize as significant threats to global security.

To do so it is necessary to understand the many threats to forests and the species that live within them. Deforestation, illegal wildlife trade, unsustainable hunting, invasive species, climate change, and disease all put them at risk, according to WWF’s Below the Canopy report.

Habitat loss and forest degradation alone primarily caused by human activity are the cause of 60 per cent of the threats to forests and forest species.

Recovery is possible

WWF’s report also shares hopeful conservation success stories, including those related to monkeys in Costa Rica and gorillas in central and east Africa, noting that with the right solutions, forest-dwelling species can recover and thrive again.

Everyone can help protect and restore forests, but there is no time to waste. Global leaders must take action now to stop climate breakdown, safeguard our planet’s remaining natural spaces, and make our consumption and production model more sustainable.

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