A little known fact: Bats pollinate, just like bees or butterflies. They eat fruit or nectar, which makes them excellent vehicles for dispersing seeds and pollinating flowers over a wide area. By building artificial bat roosts in deforested areas, researchers hope bats will disperse seeds to reforest the area. A recent study of these roosts in Latin America showed the dispersal of 60 different types of seeds [source: Science Daily].
Ways to Reduce Deforestation and Repair the Damage
In December 2007, the United Nations Climate Change Conference took place in Bali, Indonesia. After 10 days of intense discussion, more than 180 countries agreed to the Bali Roadmap. The Bali Roadmap will guide participating countries in emissions reduction and intends to lead to a binding agreement at the 2009 United Nations summit in Denmark [source: Harris]. The United States and China initially did not agree to mandatory reductions, wanting countries to set their own goals, but they eventually conceded [source: USA Today].
The roadmap includes specific measures to reduce deforestation -- for tropical rainforests in particular. Many developing countries' economies rely on their forests, and they argue they should be able to use their land as they please. In response, the roadmap will investigate policies to financially reward countries who reduce their emissions by a certain percentage (the percentage has not yet been determined). Even this proposal faces controversy, however. Because those countries with the highest baseline rate of deforestation will receive the most reward credits, critics fear that many countries will rush to cut down trees in order to raise their own baseline [source: Tickell].
Besides the U.N., there also are dozens of nonprofits working to combat deforestation. A few well-known organizations include:
- Conservation International -- teaches local farmers how to maximize their existing land, rather than clear new areas
- The World Wildlife Fund -- works to shape policies and teams with communities to preserve forests
- Rainforest Action Network -- uses in-your-face advertising campaigns to call attention to the rainforests
- The Environmental Defense Fund -- champions government bills that provide financial incentive to private landowners (such as farmers) who practice land conservation
- The Sierra Club -- works to protect and restore U.S. forests
- Amazon Watch -- defends the rights of indigenous people and communities faced with industrial development
- The Nature Conservancy -- has developed several initiatives to advance conservation
Can we really save the forests? Once the trees are gone, is it possible to restore the land? Most deforested areas, if left alone, will eventually regenerate to fertile landscape. We can certainly plant more trees -- a process called reforestation. In fact, many nonprofit organizations have popped up to support reforestation. For example, Carbonfund.org currently works on reforesting areas like Nicaragua and the state of Louisiana [source: Carbonfund.org].
In the meantime, new movements in forest protection have sprung up over the years. They include:
- Eco-forestry -- where only carefully selected trees are cut down and are transported with minimal damage to the area; the forest ecosystem is preserved while commercial timber extraction is still permitted
- Green business -- focuses on recycled paper and wood products, wood alternatives and environmentally responsible consumerism
- Land use planning -- advocates environmentally friendly development techniques, such as reduction of urban and suburban sprawl
- Community forestry -- where concerned citizens come together to manage and participate in keeping their local forests viable and sustainable
For more information on deforestation and related topics, investigate the links on the next page.