Published on June 27, 2024

Nature’s Network: How Restor is Revolutionising Rainforest Conservation

Crowther Lab science helps to highlight the importance of Rainforests for our well-being and the stability of our planet.

Rainforests are rich havens of biodiversity and wilderness, crucial climate regulators, and vital sources of food, medicine and housing materials for hundreds of millions of people. They serve as essential defenses against extreme poverty, supporting livelihoods and sustaining communities around the world. However, these ecosystems are under extreme strain. Since the 20th century the rate of resource extraction and land-use change has increased exponentially, exacerbating the fragmentation and destruction of these ecosystems and intensifying climate change. This threatens the stability of our planet, directly undermines the livelihoods of millions of local communities, and pushes the Earth closer to tipping points that affect every single one of us.

At Crowther Lab, we have dedicated much of our expertise to studying tropical rainforest biodiversity and the it’s importance for the wellbeing of people. My paper published recently shines a light on the need for humans and animals to work together to halt the loss of biodiversity and restore rainforests.

The interplay between humans and animals in rainforests

Natural forest regeneration is hailed as a cost-effective way to restore biodiversity and sequester carbon. However, the fragmentation of tropical forests has restricted the movement of wild animals that are needed to disperse plant seeds, limiting the capacity of forests to recover. My study shows that allowing wild animals to move freely across forest landscapes can increase the carbon storage of regenerating forests by up to 38%.

This is great news as it means that we have the opportunity to instigate a positive feedback loop – whereby the protection and restoration of land in the Brazilian Amazon, specifically 40% in a landscape with no more that 133 metres between each patch of forest, sets the stage for birds to accelerate this process.  More than  70% of the tree species in tropical forests are dependent on animal seed dispersal. With these conditions birds can freely move through the landscape, consuming, excreting, and spreading seeds – speeding up the restoration process.

So what can we do to help protect and restore rainforests?

Restor, built alongside Google Creative Labs and often referred to as the Google Maps of nature, is an open-source geospatial platform that allows anyone, anywhere to get involved in the nature conservation and restoration movement. The platform provides access to data insights, connectivity to a global community of land stewards, and visibility to funding networks.

If you are restoring land – add your site to the global community of projects, connect with others in your area – build a movement across your local region.

If you want to donate or volunteer your time – find projects on Restor that you love, and do just that!

If you are a large organisation and you want to fund portfolios of regenerative farmers, or local community projects – these are available on Restor, reach out to the team.

Author: Carolina Bello, Postdoc, Crowther Lab | ETH Zurich