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DellaSala speaks at New Zealand science symposium

Ashland-area resident Dominick DellaSala will talk about the forest in his backyard when he gives the opening address during an international science symposium early next month in Auckland, New Zealand.

"We have some of the most important forests on the planet right here," said the chief scientist for the Ashland-based Geos Institute. "These forests in Western Oregon are storing more carbon per acre than most forests on Earth. There is a lot of international attention on these forests now."

The scientific gathering to focus on global deforestation will be held during the International Congress for Conservation Biology on Dec. 5-9 in Auckland.

A forest ecologist, DellaSala is the president of the North America section of the Society for Conservation Biology, a scientific organization which includes 6,000 professionals dedicated to advancing the science and practice of conserving biological diversity around the Earth. The Geos Institute focuses on climate-change issues.

DellaSala will address the "International Year of Forests" symposium, one of dozens of conservation-related symposia and workshops being held during the four-day conference. More than 1,300 conservation scientists, professionals and students are expected to attend.

DellaSala, 54, is the editor and principal writer of "Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation," a 336-page book published by Island Press late last year.

Climate change, coupled with shrinking forests, is pushing the world's environmental health to a dangerous tipping point, he said, adding that scientists at the conference will urge governments worldwide to do more to protect unlogged forests.

"Forests cleanse the air we breathe, purify our drinking water and provide food, medicines and habitat for 80 percent of all terrestrial life on Earth," he said. "If we do not act soon through new protected areas and stepped-up stewardship, many of the life-giving benefits we get from forests will be gone in our lifetimes."

The choice is not between jobs and a healthy environment, he said.

"There is a path forward," he said. "If we work together now, there are jobs in the form of restoration. But if we keep going in the direction we are heading now, we will deal with the procrastination penalty."

At the very least, procrastinating will mean spending more to protect the environment, he said.

"There is a recognized need to sustainably manage our forests," he said. "There is a way forward through protecting the best and restoring the rest. We are seeing examples of countries getting the message and taking action."

That includes New Zealand, which has taken steps to preserve its remaining temperate rain forests, he said.

Stopping deforestation around the globe is necessary to reversing the effects of climate change while restoring biodiversity critical to a healthy environment, he said.

"We need to take action whether we live in New Zealand or the good old USA," he said. "There are jobs in restoration forestry. We can take care of dense, overgrown young forests while conserving old-growth forests. Leaving intact areas of mature forests is key. That is where our clean air and water comes from.

"The longer we delay action, the more problems we are passing on to the next generation," he added.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.