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A shaded solution?

We’ve all heard that protecting the Earth’s resources is important, but evidence suggests forests could play a crucial role in the fight against climate change.

Until now, scientists have had an incomplete picture of how, where and when ecosystems influence climate locally. By addressing all three questions simultaneously, the researchers were able to offer new insight into how land-use decisions are shaping local climates.

A team of researchers at Ohio State created a model that combined meteorological data collected locally with data from satellites and other Earth observation systems. It enabled researchers to compare forested land to farmland.

They found that in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, trees impact climate change by regulating the exchange of water and energy between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere.

The takeaway? More forests could help cool the planet.

“Forests play a more important role in cooling the surface in almost all regions of the Earth than was previously thought,” said Kaiguang Zhao, assistant professor of environment modeling and spatial analysis.

This evidence is especially important as policymakers debate how best to use land: for forest conservation or to meet an increasing global population’s demand for food?

The modeling could be used to identify specific areas around the world where forest protection or reforestation should be promoted.