This year, the main theme of the World Environment Day being biodiversity, it is important to remember forests, which are critical for the balance of the Earth and our long term survival.
What is the issue?
More than 10 million different species of animals, plants, and micro-organisms live on the Earth. All these creatures and the habitats in which they live represent the world’s biological diversity, also known as biodiversity.
Forest biodiversity holds the most diverse ecosystems on land, as they are home to the vast majority of the world’s species. Forests cover around 4 billion hectares of the land and each year trees clean our air, absorbing around 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 and releasing oxygen that is necessary for humans and all animals on land. Trees also remove other pollutants from the air and have an ability to cool our air temperatures reducing the formation of ground-level ozone which can cause heart and lung problems.
However, forest biodiversity is threatened by rapid deforestation, degradation and fires. It is estimated, that we are losing 12 million hectares of forest a year, much of it being tropical rainforest with its unique and colourful biodiversity.
Why is it important?
The world’s forests are in trouble. Forest loss means not only increased carbon emissions, but also high costs in terms of diminished livelihoods and cultural values. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), nearly 20% of the Amazon forest was lost over the last 50 years, not to mention other forests in Indonesia, Congo or Australia. In fact, it is not only the trees – every day different plants, animals and insects are disappearing.
Furthermore, billions of people, nearly 25% of the world’s population, many of whom are the poorest, depend on the forests for their livelihoods. Forests provide around $100 billion a year in essential goods and services like clean water and healthy soil. What is more, preventing the loss of forest ecosystems and promoting their restoration could have a potential to contribute to nearly one-third of the total climate change mitigation, which is required by 2030 to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement.
Policies that promote privatisation, increased exports and international trade naturally lead to a significant rise in extensive land estates used to produce and export wood. It is estimated that the world has nearly 850 million hectares of degraded forests which could likely be restored to regain lost biodiversity.
What can be done to protect forests and its biodiversity?
In order to protect forests drastic measures of action must be established that would lead to a reduced energy consumption and paper use. We could all build resilience to climate change and protect future generations in a few ways:
We can look for products certified as fairtrade or simply choose items coming from responsible managed or sustainable forests. It can have a massive impact on the supplier’s side if more and more people demand less harmful products.
This one may sound like an obvious one – plant at least one tree in your lifetime. Many people claim it to be a joyful thing to do as they can watch it grow and develop over the years.
Recycling paper is another great way to reduce paper use. Some interesting facts to encourage paper recycling:
- One tonne of office paper uses 24 trees
- One tonne of newsprint uses 12 trees
- One tonne of coated magazine paper uses almost 8 trees
Avoid buying products that contain palm oil. According to the WWF, an area equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforests is wiped each hour for a palm oil production. Around 85% of all palm oil globally is exported from South East Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia and most of the time palm oil is produced using unsustainable measures.
We can all share the message and encourage our family members, friends and colleagues to live in a way that does no harm to the environment. Spreading awareness about how trees are being destroyed at an alarming rate can have a great impact and help prevent deforestation.
It is time to get proactive and involved – the World Environment Day 2020 can be the day to start taking action.
For more information on World Environment Day, see here.