Allowing forests to naturally regenerate on cattle pastures can, in some cases, quickly and affordably lock up carbon and support diverse ecological communities, according to research published online this week in Nature Climate Change. Designing a cost-effective forest-management strategy that mitigates climate change, while simultaneously benefiting biodiversity, has been a difficult task.
James Gilroy and colleagues surveyed carbon stocks, biodiversity and the economic value of land in the western Andes region of Colombia - a threatened ecosystem supporting many species of plants and animals that occur nowhere else. They found that naturally regenerating secondary forests, which regrow following primary forest clearance, support diverse biological communities and accumulate significant carbon stocks from the atmosphere within just 30 years. Furthermore, because cattle ranching, the main use of land in the region, is not very profitable, the cost of allowing forests to regrow is relatively low.
In the tropical Andes at least, promoting forest regrowth can benefit local communities, wildlife and the climate.