Protecting What We Have Now
Land purchase is both the ultimate protection for biodiversity and one of the most effective ways of tackling climate change.
Currently, 15% of land on Earth is protected. This figure needs to jump to 50%, scientists say, if we are to reverse biodiversity loss and stabilise our climate. This “Global Safety Net” is made up of proposed and pre-existing protected areas all over the world, chosen for their carbon storage capacity and rich species assemblages. Many occur in the four countries that comprise our Carbon Balanced programme: Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and Vietnam.
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By providing official protection to carbon sink habitats, all nature reserves serve as effective countermeasures against climate change – but that’s not all. A well-balanced and thriving ecosystem supplies clean air and water, ensures soil health and fertility, facilitates plant pollination, and supports the recovery of endangered species.
In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) concluded that the health of ecosystems was deteriorating more rapidly than ever before, placing 1 million species at risk of extinction. IPBES also found that natural landscapes managed by indigenous peoples and local communities declined less rapidly than landscapes under alternative management.
Many parts of the global safety net overlap with these landscapes. WLT utilises an integrative approach to conservation, only taking on projects that benefit land, species and communities. WLT-funded land purchase creates carbon offsets and protects vulnerable ecosystems, both of which are fundamental in the fight against climate change, safeguarding indigenous futures and biodiversity health.
Image: Carbon rich forest in Guatemala ©FUNDAECO
Though the Carbon Balanced programme invests in intact habitats, our partners still undertake forest restoration to ensure the ecosystem is as healthy as possible. Indigenous- and community-managed lands are often under pressure from agriculture, wildfires, logging, poaching and development – all acts that degrade forest landscapes.
By supporting our partners with tackling this these threats, the stage is now set to restore degraded areas by removing any constraints to the re-establishment of natural vegetation, for example the removal of invasive plant species. This is known as assisted natural regeneration.
Tree-planting occurs only where assisted natural regeneration would not be successful or the area would benefit from enrichment, for example in eroded soils or where natural seed sources are distant. Our partners plant a mix of native plant species, ensuring the future habitat resembles its natural state as much as possible.
Image: Combining assisted natural regeneration (by the removal of invasive grasses) and tree planting of locally native species in Vietnam ©VietNature
Avoidance offsets prevent the release of sequestered carbon by protecting standing forests. The carbon stored within intact forest ecosystems – from the living trees and vegetation to the soils and waters that underpin them – is known as carbon stock. Avoidance offsets are of critical importance, but so too are regeneration offsets.
Regeneration offsets fund activities that will actively remove additional carbon from the atmosphere – like afforestation, reforestation and ecosystem restoration. Unfortunately, the slow growth rate of trees means that significant progress in reversing the damage done to our climate cannot be made until reliable new carbon capture and removal technologies are developed.
In the absence of a breakthrough, our commitment to carbon neutral and net zero strategies – slowing the rate of climate change as much as we can – takes on even greater importance.
Image: Protecting intact standing forests in Mexico is not only essential to the survival of whole ecosystems, but the forests also hold high value as carbon stock.©Roberto Pedraza Ruiz