New paper reveals key to solving global warming: save the rainforest

Bold commentary from Rainforest Trust board director published ahead of Paris Climate Convention

Tropical forest conservation and restoration could constitute half of the global warming solution, according to a peer-reviewed commentary published today in the December issue of Nature Climate Change. The commentary, “A Role for Tropical Forests in Stabilizing Atmospheric CO2” was co-authored by Rainforest Trust Board Director Brett Byers.

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“Tropical forest conservation could provide as much as half of the net carbon dioxide emissions reductions from current levels over the next 50 years,” Byers said. “Tropical forest conservation will be key to the fight against global warming, but it is going to take dramatically increased efforts in the government, charitable and corporate sectors. We’ve protected more than 500 millions acres of tropical forest so far, but the protection of the more than 1 billion remaining acres is urgent.”

Tropical forest destruction and degradation is the second largest source of CO2 emissions, well behind the burning of fossil fuels. The paper shows how rainforest conservation could be as significant to fighting climate change as reducing the use of fossil fuels.

The Nature Climate Change article describes two reasons for the tremendous potential of conservation in mitigating global warming. First, forest conservation can be implemented far faster than the use of fossil fuel can be eliminated in part because industrial capacity will take decades to produce and install alternatives to fossil fuel use. Second, the recovery of hundreds of million of acres of selectively logged tropical forest would absorb massive amounts of CO2 for 50 to 100 or more years.

“This new paper is truly groundbreaking—and potentially game-changing—as it comes just one week before what hopefully will be an historic Paris Climate Convention,” said Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier, Rainforest Trust advisory council member. “Taken together with the many other ecosystem services provided by these forests and the enormous wealth of biodiversity living within them, this paper strongly mandates a greater focus on protecting our remaining tropical forests than ever before.”

According to the article, the reduction and elimination of fossil fuels is not enough to prevent 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, a level generally seen as dangerous. Prompt tropical forest conservation and restoration, on the other hand, will make such a level of warming unlikely. Because of its near-term potential to reduce CO2 emissions and also to absorb vast amounts of CO2, tropical forest conservation and restoration could provide a bridge to a post-fossil fuel planet.

“I am hopeful that this critically important analysis will focus renewed attention on rainforest conservation,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Peru’s newly created 3.3-million acre Sierra del Divisor National Park alone, for example, supported by Rainforest Trust, sequesters more than 500 million tons of CO2. That’s equivalent to more than half the annual emissions of all the cars in the United States.”

Other land use changes, such as conservation outside the tropics and changes in agricultural practices, could also enhance the likelihood of avoiding dangerous levels of global warming. But the paper indicates that tropical forest conservation is the most significant and timely land-use opportunity available to address global warming.

Additional Information:

Nature Climate Change

A Role for Tropical Forests In Stabilizing Atmospheric CO2 – Sierra del Divisor National Park

Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving rainforest and endangered species in partnership with local conservation leaders and communities. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has preserved over 11 million acres of rainforest and other tropical habitats in Latin America, Africa, and Asia in over 100 project sites across 20 countries.

Creighton’s Corner Elementary School Rocks the Rainforest

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”Students fundraising for the rainforest. Photo by Lee Ann Canada” title=”” text=””]

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”Second grade teachers dressed as their favorite rainforest animals. Photo by Lee Ann Canada” title=”” text=””]

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”Second graders at a presentation on the Gola rainforest. Photo by Lee Ann Canada” title=”” text=””]

It is truly an exciting time to be a Rainforest Ambassador. Recent efforts by second graders at a Virginia elementary school proved just how effective youth can be at saving wildlife and inspiring others to make a difference.

Rainforest Ambassadors at Creighton’s Corner Elementary School in Ashburn, VA recently raised over $2,000 to protect Forest Elephants, Chimpanzees, and other endangered species. As part of Loudoun County’s One to the World Project, eight second grade classes chose ‘Save the Rainforest’ as the theme for a week-long campaign benefitting Rainforest Trust’s Urgent project in Gola, Liberia. Their campaign directly tied into their habitat unit and 2nd grade state exams, serving to both educate students and celebrate the rainforest.

As teacher Lee Ann Canada said, “We chose Rainforest Trust because of their great work and their high rating among charities.”

With enthusiastic leadership from their teachers, the second graders developed creative ways to protect the rainforest. Students made morning announcements to create awareness of their project and to encourage fellow students to bring “change to make a change.” They also had a spirit week called Rockin’ the Rainforest with themes for each day, including dressing up as their favorite rainforest animal. The second grade challenged the entire school to raise money and held a competition amongst grade levels.

Their principal, Mr. Knott, purchased donuts and coffee that students delivered to teachers for donations. Many students emptied their piggy banks in order to save the rainforest. In total, the second grade raised $2,260, saving nearly 6,000 acres of vital habitat in Liberia.

The second graders were clearly excited about conservation and were curious to know about the animals they were protecting .To show appreciation for Creighton’s Corner’s wonderful efforts, Conservation Outreach Assistant Allie Nelson gave a special presentation on Gola, along with a Q+A session. The students are great Rainforest Ambassadors, proving that no matter what your age, you can make a difference.
Rainforest Trust would like to thank Creighton’s Corner students and staff, including Mrs. Fishman, Mrs. Creech, Mrs. Snead, Mrs. Haller, Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Braudawa, Ms. Christie, Mrs. Canada, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Herbstritt and Mr.McGuigan.

Replanting the Atlantic Forest

By Nicholas Locke, President of REGUA

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”REGUA’s nursery, where staff raise trees native to the Atlantic Forest. Photo by Sue Healy” title=”” text=””]

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”REGUA staff replanting an area once used for agriculture. Photo by Sue Healy” title=”” text=””]

Much of the Atlantic Forest has been cut down in past centuries to make way for agriculture and development, leading to erosion and a loss of habitat for many species. The staff at REGUA actively replant trees in order to restore what has been lost. In the past years, replanting has been met with great success.

The REGUA reforestation program is occurring at a rate not thought conceivable just ten years ago. We first planted an area of 3 hectares and thought it was hard work. We hadn’t the experience and every time the sun came out, we thought the trees would die. Nevertheless, we persevered, and every year we gained more experience and became better and better at this type of work.

Today we are planting twenty times that area in a year and the REGUA team is divided into three sectors. We have the seed team that procures seeds from the forest, the nursery team that is achieving great uniformity in the production of seedlings and the field team that transports and plants them. Just a century after areas were cut down to make way for pastures, the same areas are being restored to forests.

These forests now generate employment within the local community. They form an ever-larger forest block that offers new habitat for biodiversity, leading to more research opportunities and potential tourism. Gradually, the small fragments of fading forest return offering a safe future for the species found there.
This is the most rewarding work REGUA can do!

Wildlife Wednesday: Green Sea Turtle

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”A mother turtle returning to the ocean after laying a clutch of eggs. Photo by Drew Avery” title=”” text=””]

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”The iconic Green Sea Turtle is found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Photo by Sean Hagen” title=”” text=””]

Nothing is more iconic of tropical waters than the Green Sea Turtle. Whether surfing the waves in Finding Nemo or amazing snorkelers worldwide, Green Sea Turtles are a beautiful, charismatic species. With a lifespan of up to eighty years in the wild, the turtles are known for navigating long distances to return to their exact site of birth.

Found in both the Atlantic and Pacific, the life of a Green Sea Turtle is a marriage of sea and land. Their flippers and breath-holding ability make them well-suited for ocean life and they often travel thousands of miles to lay their eggs on sandy beaches.

Unfortunately, due to coastal development, fishing bycatch, hunting, and egg poaching, the Green Sea Turtle is listed as endangered by the IUCN.

In order to protect this turtle, Rainforest Trust has partnered with Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia to conserve the Green Sea Turtle and other imperiled species on the island of Sulawesi. At the low cost of just $2.08 an acre, you can protect this turtle, allowing it to ‘just keep swimming!’ into the future.

Wildlife Wednesday: Peru’s Andean Cock-of-the-rock

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”A male Andean Cock-of-the-rock displaying its prominent crest. Photo by Chad King” title=”” text=””]

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”Andean Cocks-of-the-rock inhabit the mid-levels of trees. Photo by Garrett Huffman” title=”” text=””]

Andean cocks-of-the-rock look like phoenixes dipped in ash, with brilliant orange heads and blackened wings and tails. No other bird quite epitomizes the amazing biodiversity of Peru, and Andean cocks-of-the-rock have come to symbolize the natural treasures of the nation. In celebration of the creation of Sierra del Divisor National Park as a major accomplishment in Peru, no bird better fits the spotlight than Peru’s national bird, the Andean cock-of-the-rock.

Native to the Andean cloud forests of South America, the Andean cock-of-the-rock has four subspecies spread over their eponymous mountain range from Venezuela to Bolivia. It typically inhabits the lower and middle forest levels but, when hungry, can be found foraging in the canopy for fruit. Generally shy, it tends to avoid contact with humans, and to see one in the wild is a true treat.

Like many birds, the Andean cock-of-the-rock exhibits major sexual dimorphism, with the males possessing a prominent crest on their heads that threaten to engulf their faces. This permanent fashionable “hat” is all the rage with the much-drabber females, and it is used in mating displays, in which the males gather at dawn and compete to impress potential mates. In these early morning rituals, the males show off their vibrant plumage and emit strange calls that sound like something from a horror movie, bobbing to and fro as they engage with rival males.

But their display is all for show, as the Andean cock-of-the-rock is a negligent father. He leaves the females he mates with to raise their young alone. The female will lay two pearly white eggs in cup-shaped nests constructed from her spit, vegetation, and mud. The mother must protect her young from birds of prey, big cats, and boa constrictors. Even human pose a threat, as they occasionally take young cocks-of-the-rock from the wild to become exotic pets.

The Andean cock-of-the-rock is a spectacular sight to behold, and its shy nature makes finding it in the wild like embarking on a treasure hunt. With its vibrant displays, even brighter plumage, and odd morphology, it is a bird that will continue to fascinate as more is learned about its elusive behavior.

Creation of National Park protects over 3.3 million acres of Amazon rainforest in Peru

Establishment of Sierra del Divisor National Park in Peru secures final link in 67 million-acre Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor that will protect wildlife and indigenous communities.


On Sunday, November 8, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala will approve the creation of a 3.3 million-acre national park at Sierra del Divisor, protecting an immense expanse of Amazon rainforest. The new park—which is larger than Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks combined — strategically secures the final link in a 67 million-acre Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor, forming one of the largest contiguous blocks of protected areas in the Amazon, and is vital to protecting one of the planet’s last remaining strongholds for wildlife biodiversity and indigenous communities.

The U.S. nonprofit organization Rainforest Trust in collaboration with Peruvian partner CEDIA (Center for the Development of an Indigenous Amazon) worked with local indigenous communities and Peru’s government to create the new national park. Its establishment ends a nine-year push for protection that has involved numerous NGOs and organizations in Peru and abroad. Rainforest Trust has supported the long-term costs of establishing and protecting the park.

“The Sierra del Divisor is the final link in an immense protected area complex that extends for more than 1,100 miles from the banks of the Amazon in Brazil to the snowy peaks of the Peruvian Andes,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “After two decades of collaborating with CEDIA to protect indigenous territories and establish nature reserves, parks and sanctuaries throughout the Amazon of Peru, we have finally completed the centerpiece with the declaration of Sierra del Divisor National Park. This permanent conservation corridor is one of the greatest refuges for biodiversity on Earth.”

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The new park is not only important for the biodiversity it protects, but also for the carbon it stores. The new 3.3 million acre Sierra del Divisor National Park stores more than 500 million tons of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to over half the annual 1 Billion tons of CO2 emissions from cars in the US.

Considered one of Peru’s highest conservation priorities, the Sierra del Divisor has long been recognized for its superlative biodiversity. A brief expedition by the Chicago Field Museum found the Sierra del Divisor home to the highest levels of primate diversity in the western Amazon, as well as an estimated 300 species of fish and 3,500 plant species. The region is a stronghold for large mammal species such as jaguars and tapirs that are in decline throughout their range. It will also provide protection for the Iskonowa, an indigenous tribe living within the new park in voluntary isolation.

“Protecting the Sierra del Divisor Mountain Range from illegal logging and mining is crucial for endangered wildlife, for indigenous peoples and for the world,” explained Salaman.

“We’re thrilled to join CEDIA on this momentous victory for the planet by announcing the final creation of Sierra del Divisor National Park. We will continue to support CEDIA’s effort to protect an additional 2.3 million acres of threatened forest habitat surrounding the park to further strengthen the Andes-Amazon Corridor.”

Leaders representing three indigenous communities travelled to Lima the first week of May to draw attention to the Sierra del Divisor. They presented their demands that it be designated a national park to government officials from the Environmental and Cultural Ministries, as well as the High Commissioner on Dialogue and Sustainability.

“Our project in the Sierra del Divisor builds on more than 30 years of experience of working with native communities and protected areas,” said Lelis Rivera, Director of CEDIA. “The creation of this park would not have been possible without their strong support because communities know that their future depends on the local ecosystem’s health. The next step is to help provide them with the technical and legal tools to meet challenges on their native lands from extractive industries.”

The new park is pivotal to securing the massive Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor, which was built by two decades of partnership between Rainforest Trust and CEDIA. The two organizations have collectively protected almost 30 million acres of rainforest by establishing land rights for hundreds of indigenous communities and by creating new nature parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

About Rainforest Trust and CEDIA

Rainforest Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization focused on saving threatened rainforest and tropical habitat for endangered species in partnership with local conservation leaders and communities. Since its founding in 1988, Rainforest Trust has saved over 11 million acres of tropical forest habitat throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America in over 100 project sites across 20 countries.

CEDIA protects the Peruvian Amazon by promoting the legal land rights of indigenous groups. Since 1982, the organization has worked successfully with the Peruvian Government to protect more than 28 million acres of rainforest through the creation of protected areas and indigenous reserves. By empowering local people to responsibly conserve and manage protected areas, CEDIA is helping to promote a sustainable future for Peru’s Amazon.

Learn more about the Sierra del Divisor:

· Click to see photos and maps related to the Sierra del Divisor National Park and the Andes-Amazon Corridor.

· Visit Rainforest Trust’s website to read more about the Sierra del Divisor project.

· See our media fact sheet to read more about the Sierra del Divisor project.

Andes-Amazon Conservation Corridor


Rainforest Trust wishes to thank Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, Peru’s Ministry of the Environment, and the hundreds of Rainforest Trust donors who supported this project to make it possible, including an anonymous supporter, Eric Veach and Luanne Lemmer, Brett Byers and Leslie Santos,, Mystic Dreamer: Art for the Earth, Leslie Danoff and Larry Robbins, Melissa Barshop, Eoghan and Giuliana Daltun, Lucas Hansen, Larry Thompson, Elliotte Harold, Sally Davidson, Edith McBean, Patience and Tom Chamberlin, Donald and Karen Stearns, Urs-Peter Stäuble, James Gunn, Benevity Social Ventures, Care2, Partnership for International Birding, and Aqua-Firma Worldwide.

Other institutions and organizations that have supported the creation of Sierra del Divisor National Park include the Peruvian National Park Service, the Peruvian National Government, the regional governments of Loreto and Ucayali, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Chicago Field Museum, the Institute of the Common Good, ProNaturaleza and The Nature Conservancy.

Wildlife Wednesday: South America’s Brown-throated Sloth

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”Brown-throated sloths are noted for their characteristic smiles. Photo by Stefan Laube” title=”” text=””]

Think you’re overworked and sleep-deprived? Maybe you should take a tip from the brown-throated sloth. So laid-back that algae grows on their fur, these sloths are the epitome of taking it easy. They spend up to eight consecutive days hanging from trees, eating at their leisure, and sleeping up to 18 hours a day. Infrequent trips to the ground offer protection from predators. After all, why leave the canopy when you have all the leaves you can eat?

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”The green tinge to the sloth’s fur is due to algae. Photo by Charlie Jackson” title=”” text=””]

Despite its apparent laziness, the brown-throated sloth is highly adaptable, with the ability to swim and a hardiness that allows it to live in a variety of different ecosystems, from evergreen forests to highly disturbed natural areas. It is the most widespread and common of the three-toed sloths, ranging from Honduras to Brazil. Though it is common throughout Latin America, individuals seldom travel, usually occupying only 12 acres. As you can imagine, it took a long time for the sloth’s ancestors to spread throughout South America, considering the slow pace at which they move.

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”The brown-throated sloth’s diet consists of leaves. Photo by Christian Mehlfuhrer” title=”” text=””]

You may think a sloth’s life is dull, but things liven up between January and March. The usually solitary Brown-throated sloths come together during mating season. Their long claws are both useful for clinging to trees and as weapons when males skirmish. Even the females become rowdy, emitting shrill mating calls. Young cling to their mothers for five months or more, nursing until they are old enough to eat leaves.

Famed for their constant smiles, brown-throated sloths are cute, but don’t let that grin trick you. Under their soft fur are unique anatomical features that distinguish them from other species. They lack a gall bladder and appendix, but have large segmented stomachs and a slow metabolism, adaptations to a low nutrient diet. Instead of viewing sloths as lazy, we can admire them for their calculated expenditures of energy.

Proactive Hunting Prevention at REGUA

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Characterized by lowland rainforest, montane forest, and wetlands, the REGUA Reserve in the Atlantic Rainforest provides much-needed habitat for animals and plants suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation. The reserve is home to huge numbers of birds, over a hundred species of orchids and dozens of animals – notably the Endangered Wooly Spider Monkey and Puma, whose sightings are on the increase as REGUA connects more forest area.

REGUA ensures that in addition to the reserve itself, the surrounding area remains safe through the prevention and intervention of local hunting practices. Park Guards and local environmental police offer incentives for hunter-relinquished animal traps. In the last three years, 70 traps have been collected, removed from the area and destroyed by local authorities. By removing these deadly snares from use and educating local hunters, REGUA is helping make the Atlantic Rainforest a safer place for all wildlife.

[crb_slide image=”” credits=”A typical gun trap. Photo by REGUA” title=”” text=””]

REGUA’s work highlights the challenges Rainforest Trust’s conservation partners face protecting wildlife both within and outside of reserve boundaries, as well as the innovative ways they are finding to overcome these challenges through collaborations with local communities.

Visit Rainforest Trust’s REGUA project page to learn more about the reserve and Rainforest Trust’s conservation efforts in the Atlantic Rainforest.