NAU Scientists Contribute to Critical Global Study Showing ‘Best of the Last’ Tropical Forests Urgently Need Protection to Mitigate Climate Change, Safeguard Human Well-being


The world’s “best of the last” tropical forests are at significant risk of being lost, according to a paper released today in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Of these pristine forests that provide key services—including carbon storage, prevention of disease transmission and water provision—only a mere 6.5 percent are formally protected.

In the study, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Wildlife Conservation Society and scientists from eight leading research institutions—including professor Scott Goetz, research professor Patrick Jantz and research associate Pat Burns of Northern Arizona University’ School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems—identified significant omissions in international forest conservation strategies. Current global targets focus solely on forest extent and fail to acknowledge the importance of forest intactness, or structural condition, creating a critical gap in action to safeguard ecosystems essential for human and planetary well-being.

New targets that recognize forest quality are urgently needed to safeguard the Earth’s precious humid tropical forests. Of the 1.9 million hectares of humid tropical forests globally, the study advocated for new protections in 41 percent of these areas, active restoration in 7 percent and reduction of human pressure in 19 percent to promote coordinated strategies to sustain forests of high ecological value.

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