Today, March 21st, we celebrate the International Day of Forests. This day serves as an important reminder of the vital role that forests play in our lives, and of the urgent need to protect and restore them. Forests are essential for the health of our planet, and they provide a wide range of benefits that are essential to human well-being.
Forests, Climate Change, Biodiversity ad Ecosystem Services
Forests are one of the most effective tools we have for mitigating the impacts of climate change.
According to the United Nations, forests absorb around 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, which is equivalent to about one-third of the annual carbon emissions from human activities.
This makes forests a critical component of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
Research has shown that forests can play an even greater role in mitigating climate change if they are managed sustainably. For example, a recent study published in the journal Nature found that “a global effort to restore forests could capture two-thirds of man-made carbon emissions”.
This highlights the importance of protecting existing forests and restoring degraded forests as a key strategy for addressing climate change.
Forests are also essential for the conservation of biodiversity. They are home to more than half of the world’s terrestrial species, and they provide habitat and resources for a wide range of plants and animals.
However, deforestation and forest degradation are major threats to biodiversity and are responsible for the loss of countless species.
Protecting and restoring forests is among the most effective ways to conserve biodiversity. For example, a study published in the journal Science Advances found that protecting forests in Latin America, Africa, and Asia could save up to 50% of threatened species in these regions.
This underscores the critical importance of forests in maintaining the diversity of life on our planet. Besides, forests also provide a wide range of ecosystem services that are essential to human well-being.
Forests regulate water flows, protect against erosion, and help to maintain soil fertility. They also provide valuable products such as timber, food, and medicine, and support tourism and recreation.
Research shows that ecosystem services have significant economic value. For example, a study published in the journal Nature Communications estimated that the global value of ecosystem services provided by forests is around $16.2 trillion per year. This highlights the critical importance of forests for human well-being and sustainable development.
Forests contribute to improved livelihoods
Forests are essential for the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. They provide employment and income for forest-dependent communities and support the livelihoods of many others through the products and services they provide.
Research has shown that sustainable forest management can support these livelihoods while also conserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change.
For example, a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy found that community-based forest management in Nepal had led to improvements in forest health, biodiversity conservation, and community livelihoods.
As we celebrate the International Day of Forests, we must commit to protecting and restoring our forests. This requires action at all levels, from individual choices to national and international policies.
We can support sustainable forestry practices, reduce our consumption of products that contribute to deforestation, and advocate for policies that protect forests and their biodiversity for the well-being of the current and future generations.
The author is a Communications and Advocacy Specialist, a mentor at the African Women Leaders in Agroecology-Initiative, Chairperson of National and International Engagements at Inter-Sectoral Forum on Agrobiodiversity and Agroecology (ISFAA), and Treasurer of the Board at the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK)