Dr. Makarieva explains why protecting existing forests is one of the most important things we can do to stabilize the climate. Pending legislation in MA (USA) serves as a model for policy protections needed around the world. Learn more about taking action here, and find out more at Save Mass Forests.
Our climate system is incredibly complex. Much of it depends on clouds. Clouds will either cool or warm the Earth depending on their type, because they reflect sunlight (cooling) but absorb thermal radiation (warming).
The natural forest can be compared to a skilled tightrope walker whose equilibrium (producing warming and cooling clouds) keeps the climate in balance. This dynamic has emerged throughout the evolution of the planet. It requires coordination between all species in the forest community. (Some cloud-seeding particles are produced by forest bacteria!) When we log or burn the forest, we introduce a disturbance. When the disturbance goes beyond the threshold, the system collapses. The tightrope walker cannot keep balance and crashes. Climate destabilization commences.
The less disturbed the balance of the system, the more efficient climate regulation will be. After a disturbance, the forest ecosystem has the capacity to recover through the process of ecological succession. Consortia of different species (starting from lichens and mosses and proceeding to herbs, shrubs and trees) replace each other in a non-random order — restoring the ecosystem’s environment and capacity to regulate climatic conditions. Such a recovery is not guaranteed — if disturbed beyond a threshold, the ecosystem can totally degrade. With the beginning of the era of industrialization, North American forests suffered a dramatic devastation. Today those forests show signs of self-sustainability, are recovering with a full suite of biodiversity and are exceptionally valuable. These are recovering mechanisms maintaining climate stability.
Life is governed by the universal laws of nature. These laws are not dependent on imaginary lines drawn on human maps. We have learned so much about natural ecosystems in recent decades. The sooner we align our laws with the newly discovered evidence of how important natural forests are for climate and water cycle stabilization, the better chance we have to secure favorable conditions for ourselves and our children.
A unique effort is currently underway in Massachusetts, including bills to protect natural self-sustainable climate-regulating forests from logging. Let us champion the legal recognition of the climate-regulating function of natural forests!