That forests are good for the environment is a no-brainer. What isn’t as clear-cut: how do newly planted woodlands affect water availability? New research from Madagascar has drawn up some surprising answers. “Young forests have more or less the same benefits as a mature forest,” Maafaka Ravelona, co-author of a new study, said about forests’ ability to retain rainwater. The results published in the Journal of Applied Ecology will be welcome news for forest restoration champions. If scrubby forests are as efficient as older ones in retaining water, it means reforestation bestows substantial benefits sooner rather than later. In response to alarming biodiversity loss and the climate crisis, almost all countries have embraced tree-planting campaigns, including Madagascar, which in 2019 committed to planting trees on 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) every year. “Environmental policymakers are getting increasingly excited about restoring forests to sequester more carbon, and ambitious targets are proliferating,” said Julia P.G. Jones, a conservation researcher at Bangor University and one of the co-authors of the paper. “it seems important to know more about the impact of forest restoration on local water supplies, flood risk.” Maafaka Ravelona collecting data in the field. Image courtesy of Julia P.G. Jones. In Madagascar, slash-and-burn cultivation has laid waste to large swaths of forestland. The country has lost about half of its natural forest cover in a span of decades and faces the unenviable task of reclaiming these degraded lands. But for communities helping to reforest them, tangible benefits are often elusive. Rice is a staple in the country, which…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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