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Why is old-growth forest important?

Old-growth forests are both ecological hotspots, provide clean water for humans, and are a major source of carbon sequestration to help combat climate change.

Giant fir trees in an old forest in California.  Photo: National Geographic

Giant fir trees in an old forest in California. Image: National Geographic

Not only linking us to the past, the world’s old-growth forests perform amazing ecological feats, even as they face new threats from climate change and activity. of human.

Older forests store much more carbon than young forests, helping to protect us from greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. A study of six national forests in the state of Oregon, USA showed that the largest 3% of trees account for 42% of the forest’s carbon.

In places with high carbon stocks, flora and fauna tend to be more abundant than elsewhere. In the Hoh River basin, for example, when researchers climbed to the tops of tall trees, they found saplings sprouting from the soil on branches. Old-growth forest expert Beverly Law at Oregon State University said the canopy has its own ecosystem with a wide variety of mosses, lichens, insects and birds. “There’s another world up there,” Law insisted.

Moss and lichens cover tree trunks in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington.  Photo: National Geographic

Moss and lichens cover tree trunks in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington. Image: National Geographic

Old-growth forests support life to grow more diverse and host complex networks of communication between organisms. They provide shade for sensitive species below, especially those that need time to migrate and adapt to changing environments. Large trees create important habitat structures for both terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna.

The scientists note that old-growth forests store and gradually release clean water for millions of Americans, while mitigating the impact of flooding as weather events become increasingly erratic and extreme. Finally, the majestic and pristine beauty of perennial forests also attracts tourists and inspires economic and recreational activities, especially in rural areas.

There is no specific timeline to define old-growth forest, because that depends on the ecosystem. Bristlecone pine can last for 5,000 years, while some other species live only 150 years, but they are still considered “old trees” if located in forests that are mostly undisturbed by humans. What these forests have in common is a complex, ever-changing ecosystem that fosters symbiotic relationships between species.

“There is a great diversity of flora, fauna and soil in old-growth forests. Biodiversity – including genetic biodiversity and species biodiversity – is essential for resilience. It’s what protects forests from disease and other threats. It’s essential for life to go on,” added Law.

Doan Duong (According to National Geographic)

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