Fighting Climate Change by Protecting the World’s Most Important Tropical Forests
In the midst of the worsening climate crisis, tropical deforestation is once again on the rise. In 2020 alone, the world lost over 30 million acres of tropical forest - that’s nearly an acre per second. This rampant deforestation has dumped into our atmosphere 2.64 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, approximately seven times the UK’s annual emissions.
We must act now.
In April 2021, Rainforest Trust launched the Rainforest Climate Action Fund, fighting climate change by protecting the world’s most important tropical forests. Donating to this fund may be the most efficient way to fight climate change right now, while also saving biodiversity. Together, we will work to permanently lock up 15 billion tonnes of carbon by 2025.
About a quarter of the 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 we humans have emitted since the industrial revolution has been caused by land-cover change, especially deforestation. At the same time, almost half of these emissions have been safely re-absorbed by oceans and forests. But this process of sequestration will end and the stored carbon will be dumped back into the atmosphere if we continue to degrade nature.
Each of the 193 protected areas we and our partners have created since 1988 have helped save endangered species and ecosystems from extinction. But many of these projects also have had a huge impact protecting the planet from climate change. Several types of projects are particularly impactful.
First are projects which massively reduce carbon emissions in the immediate future because they protect forests in imminent danger of destruction, so-called “frontier forests.”
Second are projects which protect forests that are actively drawing large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere and sequestering it underground. These “super-sequesterers” include the flooded forests of the Amazon, swamp forests of the Congo, peat forests of Borneo, and mangroves which fringe many of the world’s tropical coastlines.
The third type of projects lock up carbon in large, tall, intact hardwood forests in perpetuity for a reasonable cost. Such protected forests store vast amounts of carbon in their wood, roots and soil, locking up much of that carbon in perpetuity.
It all starts, however, with creating protected areas, and that is where charitable giving can have such a huge impact. Our track record of preventing deforestation long-term has been great: of the protected areas we have helped create since 1988, 92% have seen less than 5% total deforestation.
Launching the new fund on Earth Day 2021, Rainforest Trust CEO Dr James Deutsch said “We are now actively seeking some projects that have a disproportionate impact on climate, and this Earth Day we launch our Rainforest Climate Action Fund to enable our donors and partners to maximize the impact of their support on climate change.”
Why Are Protected Areas So Important For Our Planet?
Rainforest Trust’s mission for over 30 years has been to prevent the destruction of rainforests and other tropical habitat through the creation of protected areas. We've already helped to create 178 protected areas totalling over 24 million acres, and have another 100 or so in the works. So why are protected areas so important? Here are our top five reasons.
1. Safeguard Biodiversity
Protected areas guard critical habitat for species. Recent studies show that on average the number of species in a protected area is 10.6% higher than outside, and the populations of those species are 14.5% greater when they live on protected land.
2. Protect Our Climate
Rainforests store billions of tonnes of carbon, which is released into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas CO2 when forests are set on fire. Protected areas preserve these vital carbon sinks, helping to reduce the impacts of climate change.
3. Provide Local Economic Success
When protected areas are created in collaboration with rural communities, local economies stand to benefit in a number of ways. Communities often find employment in protected areas, as forest guardians, in ecotourism or through sustainable farming.
4. Prevent the Spread of Disease
Clearing rainforest habitat displaces biodiversity and renders ecosystems unbalanced. 60% of infectious diseases – including SARS, Lyme, Ebola and Covid-19 – are zoonotic in origin. Protected areas help to keep ecosystems intact, thus playing a vital role in disease prevention.
5. Ensure Food and Water Security
Management plans within our protected areas often promote best practices for sustainable agriculture that result in greater supplies for local communities to consume or sell. These areas also protect watersheds that ensure a clean water supply.
Protected areas matter. We all benefit when nature is protected, and the need for protected areas has never been more urgent. By supporting our work, you can benefit our planet for species, communities and future generations.
Rainforest Trust 2020: A Year in Review
2020 was a year of disruption and change for every person and organization, Rainforest Trust included. The need to protect our planet and nature has never been more urgent. Thanks to the commitment of our supporters and the extraordinary efforts of our partners, our vital conservation work around the world continued and over 1.5 million acres of precious habitat were protected.
Endangering the lives of millions, COVID-19 was a warning sign from our planet. Zoonotic in origin, the pandemic is a direct result of our increasing contact with wildlife through deforestation and the destruction of nature––harmful human activity that also pushes us further into the climate crisis. The urgent need for conservation has never been greater and Rainforest Trust has doubled down on our commitments. This year alone we:
Safeguarded over 1.5 million acres of habitat across the globe, protecting the homes of 614 threatened species.
Kept over 146 million metric tonnes of carbon stored in forests where it belongs, helping to prevent climate change.
Added 202,028 acres to the Airo Pai Community Reserve––a critical step in our multi-year effort with local partner, CEDIA. This follows another 332,935 acres that was protected by CEDIA earlier this year. These projects help indigenous communities gain legal title to their cultural land and stop deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon.
Expanded the YUS Conservation Area in Papua New Guinea by 233,186 acres for the Endangered Huon Tree Kangaroo–– a project completely dependent on the indigenous communities, who will work together to safeguard resident species in perpetuity.
Established two protected areas in the Himalayas of Nepal––the 176,630-acre Lungbasamba Landscape Biocultural Heritage and Ecotourism Special Conservation Zone and the 84,927-acre Topkegola Biocultural Heritage and Ecotourism Special Conservation Zone.
Safeguard over 106,000 acres of both aquatic and terrestrial habitat through the Aquatic Reserve of Pesut Mahakam Habitat in Indonesia, which protects a wide range of species, including the Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutan and nearly the entire population of the Critically Endangered Mahakam subpopulation of the Irrawaddy Dolphin.
Created 386,176-acre Imwabum National Park in Myanmar, providing protection for a diverse range of forest habitats for threatened species like the Critically Endangered Sunda Pangolin, Critically Endangered Chinese Pangolin, Endangered Red Panda and Clouded Leopard.
Protected the 28,766-acre Kokoi Euja Nature Reserve in the Choco forest of Colombia, which safeguards habitat for the endemic and Endangered Golden Poison Frog. It also highly benefits local indigenous communities, who can now maintain their land for future generations.
Protected 640,000 acres of coastline and rocky reefs in Côte d’Ivoire, creating the first marine protected area in the country and safeguarding key habitat for Critically Endangered Hawksbill Turtles, Endangered Green Turtles, Critically Endangered Atlantic Humpback Dolphins, as well as Endangered Whale Sharks, Endangered Scalloped Hammerheads and many others.This protection allows our partner, Conservation des Espèces Marines, to help local communities maintain sustainable fisheries and increase tourism––highly benefitting the local economy.Baby Leatherback turtles make their way into the Dodo River on the Ivory Coast
Expanded the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya by 4,625 acres to bolster protection for 14% of the country’s Black Rhinoceros population and the world’s single largest population of Grevy’s Zebra, as well as African Elephants, African Wild Dogs, Reticulated Giraffes, Lions and Cheetahs.
From its start, 2020 has been filled with unprecedented challenges. Despite these, Rainforest Trust remained focused on our mission to safeguard habitat, save species, engage communities in conservation and create a brighter future for our shared planet.