Forests play a critical role in regulating the Earth’s climate by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Trees and other vegetation absorb CO2 through a process called photosynthesis, which they use to produce energy and grow. When forests are healthy and intact, they can store large amounts of carbon in their biomass (leaves, branches, trunks, and roots), as well as in the soil.
Forests also help to regulate the Earth’s climate by releasing water vapor, which cools the surrounding air, and by providing shade, which can lower temperatures. They also play a role in preventing soil erosion, which can help to reduce the amount of sediment and other pollutants that end up in rivers and streams.
However, deforestation, land-use change and degradation of forests can lead to a release of stored carbon back to the atmosphere, which in turn contributes to climate change. Deforestation and degradation also can lead to loss of biodiversity, and can make local communities more vulnerable to climate-related risks such as flooding and landslides.
Therefore, protecting and restoring forests is considered as one of the most cost-effective ways to mitigate climate change, and also to provide other ecosystem services. Forest-based strategies have been proposed as a way to achieve mitigation goals, such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and afforestation and reforestation (A/R).