Have you ever asked yourself what would have happened if we did not have forests? Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihood. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land. Forests provide so many benefits ranging from social-cultural to economic to cultural and environmental.
These benefits include contributions to the overall economy – through employment, processing and trade of forest products and energy – and investments in the forest sector. They also include the hosting and protection of sites and landscapes of high cultural, spiritual or recreational value. The socio-cultural values vary among countries, depending on their level of development and traditions but all in all the benefits are immeasurable.
Environmentally, forests play a key role in our battle in adapting to, and mitigating climate change. Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air. They protect watersheds, which supply 75% of freshwater worldwide. Forests are also water towers without which, there would be no rivers and lakes. Ecologically, forests are home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
Despite all the priceless ecological, economic, social-cultural benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarming rate – 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
As we celebrate this year’s Forest Day under the theme “Forests and Climate Change,” let us remember that forests, and trees outside forests contain solutions that will address climate change challenges as well as sustainable development.
Happy International Day of Forests!