Protected areas: an effective tool to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries
Forests play a key role in the global carbon cycle, absorbing and storing carbon in their biomass and soils. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) discussions on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in developing countries result from a recognition of the substantial greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation, especially in the tropics. Depending on the method of forest clearing and the subsequent use of the felled trees and land, deforestation not only releases the carbon stored in the above ground biomass, but leads to decomposition of roots and mobilization of soil carbon. Global greenhouse gas emissions from changes in land use, including tropical deforestation, are estimated to make up around 20% of annual global emissions from all sources (IPCC 2007), though there is a high level of uncertainty attached to the precise figure. Forest fragmentation and degradation also increase the risk of forest fires, which release further carbon emissions and increase susceptibility to future fires (Cochrane & Schulze 1999). Retaining and restoring forested areas is therefore a crucial climate change mitigation strategy.