Instead of wasting money planting lots of trees in a way that is destined to fail, it makes more sense to focus on keeping existing forests healthy, according to a new study published in Science .
This strategy would be more effective for forests to continue to act as carbon "sinks", removing carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and storing it in trees and soil.
Keeping forests healthy will require a new approach to forest management . Managing for change means, for example, more aggressive thinning of forests to reduce the accumulation of fuels that fuel massive forest fires. It also means selectively replacing some trees (after a forest fire, for example) that are no longer in optimal climate zones with new species that will thrive now and for decades to come.
In the long term, these projects are likely to benefit forests and increase their capacity to store carbon much more than mass planting campaigns.
The study also indicates that emissions must be reduced as much as possible and as quickly as possible . According to the study authors, these disturbing trends are expected to accelerate as the climate warms .
Climate change has been implicated in record-breaking wildfires in the western United States, Australia and elsewhere. At the same time, deforestation continues to increase around the world and is especially damaging in tropical forests.