Ancient grasslands at risk

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Science  08 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6269, pp. 120-122
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5132

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Concerns over deforestation have led to attempts to identify suitable areas for reforestation around the world (1). The most ambitious effort to date is the World Resources Institute (WRI) Atlas of Forest and Landscape Restoration Opportunities (1). This map is linked to a global plan to reforest degraded lands to offset anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The immediate target is the reforestation of 1.5 million km2 by 2020 (2, 3). Vast areas of open grassy vegetation have been identified as suitable for reforestation. But are all these grasslands secondary products of deforestations? Recent research shows that grasslands are often ancient and highly biodiverse, but it remains difficult to distinguish between primary and secondary grasslands on a large scale. Reforestation efforts thus risk converting ancient tropical grasslands to plantations.