Dynamic modelling shows substantial contribution of ecosystem restoration to climate change mitigation

Limiting global warming to a 1.5°C temperature rise requires drastic emissions reductions and removal of carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere. Most modelled pathways for 1.5°C assume substantial removals in the form of biomass energy with carbon capture and storage, which brings with it increasing risks to biodiversity and food security via extensive land-use change. Recently, multiple efforts to describe and quantify potential removals via ecosystem-based approaches have gained traction in the climate policy discourse. However, these options have yet to be evaluated in a systematic and scientifically robust way. We provide spatially explicit estimates of ecosystem restoration potential quantified with a Dynamic Global Vegetation Model. Simulations covering forest restoration, reforestation, reduced harvest, agroforestry and silvopasture were combined and found to sequester an additional 93 Gt C by 2100, reducing mean global temperature increase by ∼0.12°C (5%–95% range 0.06°C–0.21°C) relative to a baseline mitigation pathway. Ultimately, pathways to achieving the 1.5°C goal garner broader public support when they include land management options that can bring about multiple benefits, including ecosystem restoration, biodiversity protection, and resilient agricultural practices.

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