Study: In 2 decades, nearly 146 million acres of forest have regrown naturally across the world

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Over the last 20 years, so many forests have regenerated worldwide that they could fill up France, according to a new World Wildlife Fund study.

There were different ways the forests were regenerated — in some areas, nothing was done, while in others native trees were planted, invasive plants removed, and livestock fenced off, BBC News reports. Natural forest regeneration is "cheaper, richer in carbon, and better for biodiversity than actively planted forests," WWF's William Baldwin-Cantello said.

The documented forest regeneration occurred in northern Mongolia, Canada, central Africa, and Brazil, where an area about the size of the Netherlands has regrown since 2000. These regenerated forests could absorb the equivalent of 5.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which is more than the U.S. emits every year, BBC News reports.

To "realize the potential of forests as a climate solution," there needs to be more than just the restoration of natural forests, Baldwin-Cantello said. The world must also combat deforestation.

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