In trying to protect rainforests, we also need to look at how damaged forests can be brought back to health. While it is impossible to replant a rainforest, some rainforests can recover after they have been cut down -- especially if natural forests remain nearby or they have some help through the planting of trees. In some cases it is also possible to use deforested lands for improved forms of agriculture to provide food for people living nearby. When these people have enough food, they will not need to cut down more forest to plant crops.

One promising area of research looks at ancient societies that lived in the Amazon rainforest before the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century. Apparently these populations were able to enrich the rainforest soil, which is usually quite poor, using charcoal and animal bones. By improving soil quality, large areas of the Amazon that have already been deforested could be used to support agriculture. This could reduce pressure on rainforest areas for agricultural land. Further, the “terra preta” soil as it’s called, could help fight climate change since it absorbs carbon dioxide, an important greenhouse gas.

 

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