The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March as the International Day of Forests in 2012 to celebrate and raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests. Countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.
International Forest Day is a tremendous occasion to celebrate the world’s wildlife and humanities’ achievements in preservation of it, to educate the public on forests and ecosystems. But it is also a suitable opportunity and the right time to address global problems and to mobilize political will to take action.
Why are Forests crucial for our survival? When we drink a glass of water, write in a notebook, take medicine for a fever or build a house, we do not always make the connection with forests. And yet, these and many other aspects of our lives are linked to forests in one way or another. Forest sustainable management and their use of resources are key to combating climate change, and to contributing to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations. Forests also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet despite all these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate.
Wood helps to provide bacteria-free food and water in many kitchens, build countless furniture and utensils, replace materials as harmful as plastic, create new fibers for our clothes and, through technology , be part of the fields of medicine or the space race. It is vital to consume and produce wood in a more environmentally friendly way for the planet and its inhabitants.
Moreover, forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land and accommodates more than 80% of the terrestrial specifies of animals, plants and insects. Forests cover 30% of the earth’s surface and are vital habitats for millions of species, they are sources of clean air and water, and of course crucial for fighting climate change. A study from the UN shows that forests actually can lift one billion people out of poverty and create additional 80 million green jobs.
Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter.
During the day, trees absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and give out oxygen, the air that we breathe. The carbon in forests exceeds the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere. Forests and forest soils store more than one trillion tonnes of carbon.
Hence, forests play a crucial role in fighting catastrophic climate change by absorbing and storing massive amounts of CO2. In addition, trees could reduce temperatures in cities up to 8°C, lowering use of air conditioning and related emissions by up to 40%. But as we cut them down, oftentimes to make space for agriculture, they lose their ability to regulate the global climate.
During heavy rains, trees reduce the risk of flooding. Experts say that woodland acts as a barrier to floodwater, while trees also prevent soil erosion, reducing sediment going into rivers and increasing water absorption into the ground. Forests can also retain excess rainwater, prevent extreme run-offs and reduce the damage of flooding. They can also help mitigate the effects of droughts by releasing water in the dry season, forests can also help provide clean water and mitigate the effects of droughts.
Furthermore, more than a quarter of modern medicines, worth an estimated US$ 108 billion a year, originate from tropical forest plants.
International Forest Day 2022 Theme: The theme for 2022 is “Forests and sustainable production and consumption”.
Did you know?
- Forests are home to about 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, with more that 60,000 tree species.
- Around 1.6 billion people depend directly on forests for food, shelter, energy, medicines and income.
- The world is losing 10 million hectares of forest each year – about the size of Iceland.
(This story is a part of ‘Punascha Pruthibi – One Earth. Unite for It’ awareness campaign by Sambad Digital)