In recent decades, cattle grazing has accounted for around two-thirds of deforestation in Brazil, with ranchers clearing forest to create pastures. Halting climate change demands not only stopping deforestation, but reversing it, for instance, by turning pastures back into woodlands. A new study of secondary forests in Central and South America and West Africa offers some hope, finding that forests are able to regrow quickly on abandoned lands.
Seeds, roots, and stumps preserved underground fuel new growth, aided by the warm, humid climate in the tropics. That allows young trees to grow quickly. In the areas studied, soil recovered in less than a decade, while various layers of plants and trees returned in 25 to 60 years. The findings were published in the journal Science.
“I was totally surprised how quickly it went,” Lourens Poorter, an ecologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study, told The Washington Post. “These forests can recover very fast and they can do it by themselves.”