Save the Rainforest? Nature May Have It Covered

New jungle in the tropics might outpace deforestation
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2009 12:18 PM CST
Trees grow upon a fallen comrade in Santa Elena Preserve in Costa Rica. In neighboring Panama, people are moving to the cities and letting new forest spring up on their land.   (Flickr)
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(Newser) – With all the talk of how much primeval rainforest disappears every year, it might come as a surprise to hear that much more new forest is springing up to replace it. Although new jungle taking over abandoned or destroyed farms in tropical nations is good for the planet—the UN has begun the first major study of its impact—not all scientists agree that it can replace established rainforest, writes the New York Times.

Secondary forests grow quickly, and can soak up some of the carbon footprint caused by destruction of primary jungle, but their overall benefit depends heavily on when and where they grow. Animals whose Amazonian rainforest habitat is destroyed can't just pick up and move to Panama, and the secondary growth there might not be diverse enough anyway to support many local species.