Only 40% of forests have high integrity globally. Deforestation is not the only problem, as forest areas have been severely affected by human activities such as fire, hunting, wildlife exploitation, and edge effects . These data are revealed in a study published in the journal Nature Communications .
The research brought together 47 forest and conservation experts from around the world and is the result of advances in remote sensing, big data and cloud computing.
The analysis indicates that forests with high integrity can help slow the pace of climate change, preserve biodiversity, protect the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous peoples and local communities, and prevent future pandemics . Hence the importance of its conservation.
However, only 17.4 million square kilometers of the Earth’s remaining forests (40%) are considered to be of high integrity, and only 27% of this percentage is in protected areas.
Due to these shocking data, the international organization Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and its scientific partners structured the Forest Landscape Integrity Index , a digital tool that helps to monitor this parameter in the world’s forests, including Ecuador.
The index, which is publicly available, will be updated every year and allows users to analyze global patterns and refine local areas. ” It will make the condition of the world’s remaining forests visible to everyone for the first time and support specific actions to conserve, manage and restore them, ” says WCS.
Hedley Grantham, lead author of the study and director of Conservation Planning at WCS, says the research results are central to current discussions regarding the Convention on Biological Diversity.
“The current draft of the Post-2020 Global Framework for Biodiversity wisely proposes targets related to ecosystem integrity and there has been an active debate on how this can be quantified and monitored. With this index, we can now set ambitious policy targets to improve the integrity of forests globally, ”he adds.
Meanwhile, James Watson, director of the WCS Science and Research Initiative and the University of Queensland, says that the use of this index is essential to locate the intact forests that remain on Earth and ensure that they are better protected.
“We show how critical some countries, including Canada, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Papua New Guinea, are in keeping the world’s last great forests intact. The fine-scale nature of the map will allow land managers to plan activities more effectively and monitor changes over time, ”he says.
The tool makes it possible to visualize changes that degrade many forest values, so that policy and decision makers see where the forest areas that survive in good condition are located.
By integrating data on multiple human pressures known to modify forests, the analysis takes global quantification beyond simple categories or using only pressure indicators as surrogates for integrity, to a more nuanced description of this problem as a continuum, recognizing that not all existing forests are in the same condition.
“Our analysis reveals that severe and extensive forest modifications have occurred in all biogeographic regions of the world,” say the scientists.
In the Ecuadorian Amazon there are still extensive areas with high ecological integrity, as well as along the eastern foothills of the Andes. On the coast, the areas in the best state of conservation are in Esmeraldas , says Galo Zapata, scientific director of WCS Ecuador.
“In Ecuador, areas of high ecological integrity that are outside the protected areas are part of indigenous territories, so they are already within a conservation and management scheme that complements the system of protected areas”, indicates the expert. However, it is necessary to support the organizations and communities of these territories to strengthen the sustainable management of their natural resources.
The index, according to Zapata, will allow the country to identify priority areas for conservation due to their high ecological integrity, and areas where restoration efforts are required. People can access the information through the website www.forestlandscapeintegrity.com . (I)