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Scientists measuring the health and caliper of the largest trees on earth.

Scientists measuring the health and caliper of the largest trees on earth, the giant Sequoia of Sequoia National Forest in Tulare County, California. The larger trees are over 250 feet high and up to 102 feet in circumference at the base, more than the distance between home plate and second base in a baseball field.

Credit: Mike Nichols


Call to action:

Protect existing forests and allow degraded forests to recover and mature to their full potential as a critical solution for carbon sequestration and biodiversity loss.

Proforestation is the practice of protecting existing intact forests or allowing forests to recover naturally if they have been degraded. Older and larger trees have high rates of carbon sequestration, while supporting native biodiversity, water and air quality, and flood and erosion control. Logging, mining, disease, and wildfires have led to the loss of over a third of Earth’s original forests, often resulting in land degradation. Preserving existing forests and letting them grow to their full ecological potential would sequester significantly more carbon dioxide than newly planted trees. Proforestation is immediate, effective, low cost, and can be utilized in all types of forests. Protection of forests can take many forms, including federal legislation, administrative action, conservation easements, deforestation-free supply chains, and Indigenous land rights.

Nexus Rating SystemBeta

Solutions to the climate emergency have unique social and environmental effects, positive and negative. To develop a broader understanding of the solutions in Nexus, we rate each solution on five criteria.

Sources for each Nexus are graded numerically (-3 through 10), and the average is displayed as a letter grade. You can explore each source in depth by clicking “view sources” below. For more information, see our Nexus Ratings page.



Action Items


Learn about the threats to intact forests and why they need to be protected. William Moomaw coined the term proforestation to spotlight the effectiveness of older and middle-aged forests in sequestering atmospheric carbon. Intact old-growth forests are generally ones that have developed over long periods of time without disturbance. They comprise nearly 40 percent of the global forest area and span every continent except Antarctica. Canada, Brazil, and Russia contain over half of the total. Intact old-growth forests are important because:

Take action to protect forests. It is important to pressure governments and companies to protect intact old-growth forests and halt extractive activities. Examples of how individuals can get involved include:

  • Join a campaign. Campaigns can help ensure forest protection. The  Climate Forests Campaign was part of a successful effort to pressure President Biden to protect mature forests on federal lands from logging. Petitions like this example call for EU member states to end subsidies for burning forest wood and to prioritize forest protection. Other campaigns and organizations are listed in Key Players below.
  • Support local movements. Support for local movements can be critical to preserving old-growth forests in places with limited government action. The Podáali Fund and the Apiwtxa International Congress are helping ensure Brazil’s forests remain intact.
  • Volunteer to monitor forest health. Citizen scientists play an important role in tracking forest health. Here are examples of citizen scientist projects in the U.S., Canada, South Africa, and Australia.
  • Donate to land-rights funds. Despite research showing that forests are healthiest on Indigenous land, only a small percentage of global funding goes to Indigenous-led projects. Supporting grassroots funds, such as the Chepkitale Indigenous People Development Project, helps Indigenous peoples protect their rights and their forests.

Buy recycled or sustainably produced paper products. Consumers can help mitigate their impact on intact forests by supporting companies whose products are recycled or produced sustainably. Learn more about responsible paper packaging here. See Boreal Forests Nexus and Palm Oil Nexus for more action items.


Public and Private Landowners

Give land to an Indigenous Landback movement. There is a movement to return culturally and ecologically significant lands to Indigenous communities, called Landback. These lands play a vital role in both furthering environmental justice and protecting forests from encroachment.

Consider a conservation easement. Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements between landowners and a land trust or government entity. They outline permanent restrictions on the use or development of land. These agreements protect forests on privately owned lands from development and may also provide owners with certain tax deductions, benefits, or incentives.


Consumer Goods Companies

Create deforestation-free supply chains. Many companies have pledged to accomplish “net zero deforestation” in their supply chains, though in most cases, the pledges have not yet been fulfilled. This is particularly true in the Amazon basin. Stronger and more innovative corporate commitments and disclosures are needed in order to halt deforestation, especially in intact forests.

Logging Companies

Stop further incursion into old-growth forests. The destruction of old-growth forests causes extensive biodiversity loss and damage to forest functions that cannot be repaired. By halting operations in old-growth forests, logging companies can end the most damaging impacts of logging on ecosystems.


Enact legislation or implement administrative action to protect old-growth forests. If intact forests fall under your jurisdiction, find a legislative or administrative way to protect them from further degradation.

Respect Indigenous rights and implement Indigenous forestry practices. Indigenous peoples and local communities are widely acknowledged to be the most effective groups at conserving and stewarding forests they live in and depend on. Less than half of these lands and territories have formal recognition by governments. Key components of centering Indigenous practices include protecting Indigenous land rights, centering Indigenous voices, and contributing direct financial support:

Invest in forest conservation. In addition to the carbon sequestration and ecosystem benefits of old-growth forests, research shows that the economic value created by leaving these forests intact is higher than that of harvested timber.

  • Gabon only lost approximately 0.1 percent of its rainforest annually between 2010 and 2020 by investing in satellite imagery to track deforestation, personnel to investigate potential illegal mining sites, and a QR-code tracking system to trace logs from forest to port.
  • Funding can be awarded to local governments that meet certain forest conservation criteria. In 2015, India implemented an “ecological fiscal transfer scheme” that rewards higher tax revenue to states that maintain their forest cover.
  • By compensating landowners for the biodiversity preservation and other ecosystem services old-growth forests provide, governments can increase public investment in forest protection. Costa Rica’s Payments for Environmental Services Program is an example.

End subsidies to the biomass industry. The biomass industry now accounts for over half of all “renewable energy” in the EU and continues to receive billions in subsidies from European nations. Over sixty thousand acres of forest are burned annually to produce wood pellets. Governments should cease financing these extractive industries and pivot investment to true renewables.

  • The Dutch government halted new biomass subsidies in 2021 and adopted a formal policy in May 2022 to permanently end subsidies for biomass heat plants.
  • In August 2022, the state of Massachusetts passed a bill that prevents wood-burning biomass plants from qualifying for renewable energy incentives from the Renewable Portfolio Standard Program.

Recognize wood-burning in greenhouse gas emissions accounting. The Kyoto Protocol’s exclusion of biomass energy production from carbon emissions totals created a “carbon accounting loophole.” It allows governments and industries to disguise burning wood that is harvested from old-growth forests as part of renewable energy targets. Revising these standards can accelerate the urgently needed transition to true renewables and prevent old-growth deforestation.

  • A 2021 open letter to the leaders of biomass-burning nations authored by over five hundred scientists worldwide and a number of transatlantic studies provide evidence of how the biomass supply chain is accelerating global warming.
  • Proposed policy modifications to the existing emissions framework outline how parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement can reduce the potential for missing emissions by including the land-use sector in their national accounting.

Support international coordination on forest protection initiatives. Given that the world’s largest forests each span several countries, international cooperation is key to keeping intact the sizable tracts of old-growth forests.

  • Current international climate change treaties, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, incorrectly classify newly planted trees and old-growth forests identically within emissions accounting and forest management guidelines. Incorporating language that distinguishes between the carbon sequestration potential of different aged forests is key to recognizing old-growth forests’ unique ecosystem contributions.
  • Brazil has proposed an alliance with the governments of Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—countries with the most tropical rainforest—to help other highly forested nations preserve their forests, advocate for wealthy nations to contribute further financing, and obtain international aid to prevent illegal logging.
  • In 2022, the European Parliament and European Council agreed to ban the import of goods that contribute to the loss of forests, with strict regulations that target palm oil, coffee, lumber, cattle, cocoa, rubber, and soy. Companies will now be required to conduct stringent supply chain inspections to track product origins, avoid those sourced from land deforested after 2020, and ensure that imports do not violate local community or Indigenous rights.

Bad Actors

Enviva is the world’s largest pellet supplier. Their claims that only 2 percent of forests in the southeastern U.S. are harvested annually and that they only produce pellets from low-grade wood products not suitable for lumber have been contradicted by independent investigations. John Keppler is the president and CEO. His LinkedIn profile is here.

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