Editor’s note: This report, by Chris Mooney, appeared in the WASHINGTON POST August 20th.
The planet’s forests are vital to us all. For one thing, without them, global warming would be a lot worse. Forests pull vast amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. They also foster untold biodiversity and deliver large human benefits — close to one out of six people on Earth “directly depends on forests” for food and other services, according to a recent report by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. If recent research is to believed, trees even improve people’s mental health and well being.
But the world’s forests are in serious trouble, according to a suite of papersout in this week’s issue of the journal Science. The research systematically examines how forests are being damaged by the combined impacts of a changing climate and more human incursions.