REDUCING emissions from deforestation combats climate change and help the conservation of biodiversity, from amphibians and birds to primates.
This is shown in the Carbon and Biodiversity Demonstration Atlas, believed to be the first of its kind, produced by the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Center.
Emissions from land use, primarily deforestation, contribute to an estimated 20 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing these carbon emissions is likely to be important in climate change mitigation.
The pioneering UNEP Atlas shows how investing in carbon-rich ecosystems can give the double dividend of combating climate change and biodiversity loss.
“By pinpointing where high densities of carbon overlap with high levels of biodiversity, the atlas spotlights where governments and investors can deal with two crises for the price of one,” says Achim Steiner, UN Undersecretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.
The atlas includes regional maps showing where areas of high carbon storage coincide with areas of biodiversity importance. It also shows where existing protected areas are high in both carbon and biodiversity.
“Nature has spent millions of years perfecting carbon capture and storage in forests, peat lands, soils and the oceans while evolving the biodiversity that is central to healthy and economically productive ecosystems,” he says.
“Technological methods for capturing and storing will have their role, but the biggest and widest returns may come from investing in and enhancing natural carbon capture and storage systems.”
The tropical regions of Asia and Oceania cover a large geographical area, from the continental land mass of south Asia to the Pacific Islands in the east, with a total land area of 11 million square kilometers.
They store approximately 206 gigatons of carbon, 60 percent of which is contained within high-carbon areas. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea are particularly notable for their high carbon density land.
This region has a large total area of tropical forest, second only to the Neotropics, and a high rate of deforestation.
Approximately one-third of global humid tropical forest loss between 2000 and 2005 occurred in Asia. This high deforestation rate reflects the extremely high land-use pressures acting in this region.
Tropical Asia and Oceania include seven “megadiverse” countries and a number of biodiversity “hotspots” that includes the Philippines in the Indo-Malayan realm which has an estimated 25,000 species.
High species richness and endemism are found across the lowland forests of the island archipelagos and in mountainous areas of the islands and continental land masses.
The areas of high biodiversity value cover 9 percent of the land area and contain 12 percent of the regional carbon stock.
The high carbon density areas show particularly high levels of coincidence with the high-biodiversity areas in this region, with 10 percent of the total carbon stock contained within high-carbon, high-biodiversity lands.
This is particularly true of the mountainous areas of the Western Ghats and the island archipelagos.
The last refuges of endangered and critically endangered species also show high levels of coincidence with the high-carbon areas in tropical Asia and Oceania.
Although many of the protected areas of tropical Asia show little or no forest loss, there are a number of areas of high deforestation, which mostly appear to occur at the edges of protected areas.
The loss of forest from protected areas in humid tropical Asia between 2000 and 2005 has been estimated to have resulted in the loss of between 10 and 43 metric tons of stored carbon.
While deforestation rates within protected areas (0.81 percent) were lower than those outside (2.13 per- cent), a significant area of forest (1.7 million hectares), and therefore carbon, was still lost from protected areas in the humid tropical forest biome between 2000 and 2005.
The greatest forest area loss was from the Neotropics, with Asia suffering the highest-percentage loss.
It is clear that the high-carbon and high-biodiversity lands already included within the protected area networks are not necessarily secure.
Tropical Asia had high overall rates of deforestation between 2000 and 2005 at 2.9 percent, accounting for one-third of all humid tropical forest area losses. It also had the greatest percentage of forest loss within protected areas during the same period.
These high rates of loss reflect the limited extent of remaining forests and the strong pressures to which they are subject