Forests, a Matter of Life or Death for 1.6 Billion People!

Human Wrongs Watch

Forests cover one-third of the globe, provide three-fourths of freshwater and are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land. They are home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects, and around 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures – depend on forests for their livelihood. Nevertheless, some 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed every year.

Photo: IRIN/Angela Dewan

Photo: IRIN/Angela Dewan

This is what a UN report says on the occasion of the first-ever International Day of Forests“Forests are vital for our well-being. They cover nearly a third of the globe and provide an invaluable variety of social, economic and environmental benefits,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said in a message marking the Day on 21 March 2013.

Forests are the source of three-fourths of freshwater, stabilize slopes and prevent landslides, and protect coastal communities against tsunamis and storms. In addition, more than three million people use forest wood for fuel, said UN chief. And forests help combat climate change as they store more carbon than is in the atmosphere.

Preventing Global Warming

However, Ban noted that there are several threats to this ecosystem as urbanization and large-scale agriculture can exacerbate the rate of forest and biodiversity loss.

Some 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually, and deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 per cent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.

“As weather patterns alter due to climate change, many forested areas are increasingly vulnerable. This underlines the urgency of a global, inclusive, legally binding climate change agreement that will address greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the protection and sustainable management of forests.”

A UN Forum on Forests

The International Day of Forests comes just a little over two weeks before government ministers gather in Istanbul, Turkey, for the UN Forum on Forests. The Forum seeks to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment to this end.

“The first UN International Day of Forests is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate our unique relationship to forests and trees,” said the Forum’s Director, Jan McAlpine.

“This is the day for the whole world to celebrate not only the gifts that forests and trees provide us, but also the unsung heroes, those who make a difference for your forests, your trees and your communities. Find them among you and thank them.”

Zero Illegal Deforestation

At a ceremony to mark the Day, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano Da Silva, called on countries to support a Zero Illegal Deforestation target and promote tree planting.

“In many countries, illegal deforestation is degrading ecosystems, diminishing water availability and limiting the supply of fuelwood – all of which reduce food security, especially for the poor,” he said.

“Stopping illegal deforestation and forest degradation would do much to end hunger, extreme poverty and bring about sustainability.”

FAO also published on 21 March 2013 a report on the State of Mediterranean Forests, which are expected to be significantly affected by climate change and the pressure of population growth.

Mediterranean at Risk

“The Mediterranean region is undergoing many changes in their societies, lifestyles and climate,” said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forests Eduardo Rojas-Briales.

“If unmanaged, such changes could lead to negative impacts on livelihoods, biodiversity, wildfire risks, watersheds or desertification. There is an urgent need to regularly assess the state of Mediterranean forests using objective and reliable data and to manage endangered forest resources more sustainably.”

The report also provides recommendations for governments and foresters to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change on forests such as frequent fires, at local, regional and national levels.

*Source: UN release.  Related: Facts about forests.

Read also:

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‘How KFC Is Junking the Jungle’

God, What a Future!

‘Governments Spend $1.4 Billion Per Day to Destabilize Climate’

Politicians Promote Fossil Fuels with Half a Trillion Dollars a Year

Save The Planet? Just Eat Cars, Drink Fuel!

Big Business Suffocating Our Lungs

All the Benefits of Amazon Plants and Foods in a UN Book

Eighty Per Cent of World’s Forests Degraded, Destroyed

2013 Human Wrongs Watch

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