The Importance of Forests
Forests perform a crucial role for people and the planet. We explain to you in this post why investing in forests has a multitude of benefits and why forests can play a vital role in preserving the environment for generations.
The net loss of forest area has decreased substantially since 1990, but deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates. Global forest area decreased by 178 million hectares between 1990 and 2020, which is an area about the size of Libya.
Forests cover one-third of the land surface on Earth and provide various environmental benefits, including their primary role in maintaining the balance of the hydrologic cycle, contributing to climate regulation, and preserving biodiversity.
Apart from the ecological perspective, studies from an economic perspective conclude that forest resources can contribute to a nation’s economic growth and maintaining forest cover is essential for various agricultural and forestry-related activities. Forests provide more than 86 million green jobs while supporting the livelihoods of many people.
Everyone on the planet has had some form of contact with forests. This includes communities that directly rely on these ecosystems for their lives and livelihoods or communities which rely on the products obtained from these forests. Let us also not forget that forests pump out oxygen we need to live and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale!
It is evident that the health of forests is intrinsically linked to human health and our planet, therefore it is crucial to examine the many reasons why we must preserve them. We have decided to examine four reasons which will outline further what forests can do for us and demonstrate why we cannot afford to lose them.
One of the important ways to limit the impacts of climate change is to limit the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. Trees provide a highly efficient carbon-capture process absorbing carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis, converting it into the oxygen we all need to live. Forests are estimated to have removed an average of 2 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year since 2000. Often referred to as the 'carbon sink function', where the uptake, or removal of carbon from the atmosphere, exceeds the amount of carbon released. This process mitigates climate change by reducing the rate at which carbon dioxide, mainly from fossil fuel burning, builds up in the atmosphere.
Evidence also suggests that restoring forests could mitigate nearly 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions negating almost half of the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere since 1960.
Forests can also provide a natural solution to regulate water flows and protect coastal communities from extreme events and sea level rise. In addition, the roots of trees grow deep into the soil, holding it firmly in place, and help to prevent soil erosion.
Forests are far more diverse than just a collection of trees. Biodiversity refers to the range of life forms and species that exist within a given ecosystem. Crucially, forests provide a habitat for 80% of the planets terrestrial biodiversity representing some of the most diverse biological areas on Earth. The growing impact of deforestation has created significant challenges for the maintenance of biodiversity.
Looking at tropical rainforests for example, although they occupy less than 7% of Earth’s land mass, they harbor half of the species on Earth. The importance of tropical forests is linked to their high biological diversity. Studies have further reiterated that tropical forests account for 40% of terrestrial net primary productivity and have 50% of the planet’s vegetative carbon stocks.
One important aspect to consider is that although rainforests are diverse in biodiversity, the distribution and number of species varies considerably. For example, certain species may be common in only a few small areas where they are particularly well adapted compared to some species with more diverse ranges. This presents a scenario whereby forest loss can be devastating for the survival of species located in one particular area.
The existence of forests presents enormous possibilities to improve physical and mental human health conditions providing everyone with health benefits, including fresh air, nutritious foods, clean water and space for recreation.
Research suggests forests can improve our health and social well-being by helping to reduce stress and help recover from attentional fatigue. In addition, forests provide a green space which can also help in establishing personal and community identity, social activity, and social participation.
Forests also provide a rich reserve of compounds that can be utilized in pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. Conversely, in some parts of the world medicinal plants obtained from forests are the most important source of medication because of the lack of synthetic medicines and formal health care services.
The economic value of ecosystem services provided by forests globally could be worth as much as US$16.2 trillion. It is estimated that 1.3 billion people derive direct and indirect benefits from forests and trees in the form of employment, forest products, and contributions to livelihoods and incomes.
Building housing sustainably requires access to renewable materials. Forests can allow us to access affordable materials so long as we properly replenish our forests as we build. This can provide jobs to local people and allow them to secure a viable income. For example, some studies indicate that large buildings using wood materials such as timber also have an advantage of having a reduced environmental impact than those constructed with steel, saving metric tons of carbon dioxide.
Forests and trees can also help insure people from risks such as loss of crops avoiding a situation where those on low incomes fall into poverty. Through the sale of forest products and trees this provides vital support for their livelihoods.
Forests are pivotal in addressing environmental concerns, ensuring economic progress, and social development. Together, these factors underpin the fact we must conserve our forests in order to maintain a healthy sustainable environment for future generations. Simply put, they are our source of life and we simply cannot afford to lose them.
At TapTree, we recognize the importance of forests and their benefit to the climate change issue. Therefore, we are investing in projects that will combat climate change through community reforestation activities and sustainable socio-economic development programs.