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Study: REDD could save species from extinction, if well-funded

The burgeoning global program REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could do more than mitigate climate change, according to a new study in Conservation Letters by scientists with Conservation International (CI). Analyzing a sample of 2,500 forest animals, including mammals, birds and amphibians, researchers found that REDD+ could reduce the rate of extinction among these species by 46-82% over five years. The wide range in the study’s findings depends on the amount of funds devoted to REDD+: more funds means greater forest preservation and, thereby, less extinction.

Modeling deforestation in 85 countries under current rates versus various REDD+ scenarios, the model found that a fully financed REDD+ program (i.e. about $30 billion a year) would cut global deforestation by about 70% and furthermore cut extinction rates by up to 82%, whereas minimal funding ($5 billion a year) would cut deforestation by around 28% and extinction rates by almost half. In between these extremes, around $15 billion a year would buy a decrease in deforestation of 52% and cut extinction rates by 72%.

“What this research tells us is that REDD+ can be a win-win for the protection of our climate and the preservation of biodiversity,” said Dr. Jonah Busch, the report’s lead author, and Climate and Forest Economist at Conservation International. “While any reduction in deforestation and extinction rates would be a welcome achievement, the takeaway is this: the level of REDD+ financing will be the main driver of true progress. Greater financing will lead to greater reductions in deforestation, greater storage of carbon in forests, and greater benefits to biodiversity.”

Government officials from around the world are currently meeting in Cancun for a UN Climate Summit. Many are hopeful that amid low expectations for the overall meeting, jumpstarting the REDD+ program may be one of its accomplishments.

Some scientists warn that we are entering into a sixth mass extinction event with extinction rates currently estimated at 100 to 1000 times higher than the background extinction rate, i.e. the average rate of extinctions as determined by fossil-studies.

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