Tropical forests can grow back naturally and relatively fast, according to a new study. The study, published in the journal Science, shows that most tropical forests can bounce back in about 20 years if left untouched. This revelation provides the world with hope in efforts to restore troubled forests.

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The study was conducted by a team of scientists from across the world. Researchers reviewed forest data from three continents in a multidimensional approach. Thanks to high precision modeling, they determined that most tropical forest aspects, including the soil, trees, and living organisms, can be restored to their natural state over time.

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The researchers say these findings prove it is not too late to correct the mistakes that have led to climate change. According to Lourens Poorter, a professor in functional ecology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the study’s lead author, the time needed to recover these forests is realistic and practical. The best news? Tropical forests could return to 78% of their old-growth status in 20 years.

“That’s good news because the implication is that, 20 years…that’s a realistic time that I can think of, and that my daughter can think of, and that the policymakers can think of,” said Poorter

The researchers noted that letting forests regrow is beneficial in many ways. Apart from mitigating deforestation’s side effects, it also helps restore and retain the forest’s original biodiversity.

“Compared to planting new trees, it performs way better in terms of biodiversity, climate change mitigation and recovering nutrients,” said Poorter.

The scientists looked at data from 77 sites across three continents in tropical zones. Over 2,275 plots of land in the Americas and West Africa were analyzed. Researchers looked at specific areas of the forest to determine the time required for their recovery. In their analysis, the experts found that the soil could recover in 10 years or less. Plant and animal biodiversity could recover in about 60 years. Overall, they found that it would take up to 120 years to recover biomass in some areas.

The researchers are now urging policymakers to consider the option of protecting forested areas and allowing deforested lands to rejuvenate. “What we want to advocate is: ‘Please value those secondary forests, and in areas where you can, please let those forests regrow back again naturally,” Poorter said.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Pixabay