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Why protecting ancient trees is vital for coping with climate change

Some of these trees, such as bristlecone pines in the White Mountains, can live up to 5,000 years and act as massive carbon storage.

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bristlecone pine forest and blue sky
Bristlecone pine forest (Photo Dayz via Shutterstock)

By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Protecting ancient trees is vital in helping us cope with climate change, according to a new study.

Old trees - of around hundreds or even thousands of years old - play a vital role in biodiversity and ecosystem preservation.

They provide stability, strength, and protection to at-risk environments, making them crucial in the fight against climate change.

Their age and size mean they can be at home in many diverse habitats and store large amounts of carbon dioxide.

Some of these trees, such as bristlecone pines in the White Mountains, USA, can live up to 5,000 years and act as massive carbon storage.

Yet, according to the UN Environment Programme, around 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed yearly, due to agricultural expansion, logging, urbanization and road building.

This deforestation is responsible for the emission of around 25 percent of global greenhouse gas.

Protecting these ancient trees and growing new trees could reduce global net emissions by up to 30 percent.

Sequoias forest in summer season
Sequoia forest in the summer season. (Photo Volcano via Shutterstock)

Dr. Charles Cannon, the director of the Center for Tree Science at the Morton Arboretum in  Illinois, and co-author of the study, said: “Ancient trees are unique habitats for the conservation of threatened species because they can resist and buffer climate warming.”

The researchers propose a two-pronged approach to protect ancient trees.

Firstly, we must conserve these trees, and secondly, there must be a plan in place to integrate complete protection and forest rewilding.

Dr. Cannon said: “Mapping and monitoring old-growth forests and ancient trees can directly assess the effectiveness and sustainability of protected areas and their ecological integrity.

“To carry out this ambitious project, a global monitoring platform, based on advanced technologies, is required along with public contributions through community science projects.”

Currently, protecting ancient trees in forests, woodlands, historic gardens, and urban and agricultural areas remain limited by national policy levels.

Dr Cannon added: “The current review of the Convention of Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development Goal 15 ‘Life on Land’ of Agenda 2030 should include old-growth and ancient tree mapping and monitoring as key indicators of the effectiveness of protected areas in maintaining and restoring forest integrity for a sustainable future.

“We call for international efforts to preserve these hubs of diversity and resilience. A global coalition utilising advanced technologies and community scientists to discover, protect, and propagate ancient trees is needed before they disappear.”

This study was published in the journal, Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

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