Researchers from the Southern University of Science and Technology in China and Leeds University in the UK tracked changes in mountain forests every year from 2001 to 2018, evaluating increases and losses in tree cover.
The rate of change was assessed by the researchers, who then compared the changes at various heights. Also, they contrasted alterations in boreal, temperate, and tropical mountain forests. The tropical forests saw the greatest loss and the fastest rate of decline, but they also experienced the highest rate of tree recovery.
In comparison from 2001 to 2009, the overall loss of alpine forests increased by 50% from 2010 to 2018. Mountain forest loss accelerated to around 5.2 million hectares per year between 2010 and 2018, mostly as a result of logging. Wildfires, slash-and-burn farming, and agricultural development were further causes of forest loss.
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Significant mountain forest loss occurred in Asia, South America, Africa, Europe, and Australia, although the authors noticed less forest loss in North America and Oceania.
Mountainous regions are home to more than 85% of mammals, birds, and amphibians, therefore extensive forest loss could have an impact on biodiversity.
To understand how and where the amount of wooded area will change as it responds to warming, it is essential to understand the dynamics of forest loss along elevation gradients globally, the scientists said, as reported by ScienceDaily.
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Although the authors observed that protected regions had less forest loss than unprotected areas, shifting cultivation, agriculture, and commercial forestry nevertheless had an impact on these protected areas.
The greatest way to safeguard threatened species and biodiversity, according to the study’s authors, is to create protected areas in places with ample room for range animals and natural mobility. Also, they clarified that although forest regeneration is crucial, reforestation efforts should prioritize native species rather than building tree plantations, which are legal forests but do not advance biodiversity.
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By providing a clear understanding of the current trends and drivers of mountain forest loss, we hope this analysis will inform and support conservation efforts aimed at preserving critical montane forest ecosystems for future generations, the study concluded.