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Forests are considered the earth’s lungs for a reason. Their presence on the planet Earth has enabled humans and animals to thrive for generations and generations. However, humans have taken advantage of the numerous resources and abilities that nature has provided for free, resulting in the slow degradation of forests. Today, forests comprise 31 per cent of the world’s land area. Due to human demands and needs, forests, ecosystems, wildlife habitats, and more continue to be damaged every year across the world. Rapid degradation of forests will eventually lead to large-scale problems related to human survival.
Forests have always provided humans with pure drinking water, clean air, healthy food, medicinal herbs, a clean environment, and employment. Around 13.2 million people around the world have been employed in the forest sector, and about 41 million people are employed in sectors related to the forests. Besides humans, all other animals and microorganisms depend on forests for their growth and survival. Forests provide more than three-quarters of the earth’s animals with a home. While providing subsistence to all species on earth, forests also play an essential role in mitigating the effects of climate change by acting as a storehouse of carbon dioxide. Forests suck in the carbon emissions from the atmosphere and keep the environment clean and healthy.
The degradation of forests is one of the biggest factors contributing to global warming and climate change. Deforestation is a major threat to forests across the planet. Even in the midst of a huge climate crisis, the world’s forests continue to degrade at an increasing rate. Forests were initially cut down to get wood for fuel and agricultural purposes. But as development and modernisation continued, forest cover was destroyed for commercial purposes like the construction of roads and using timber to make furniture and products like palm oil, lipstick, animal feed, and so on. The most recent product is Biofuels. As forests get converted, the ecosystems and habitats within them lose their ability and strength to provide species with essential goods and services.
Deforestation can take place in several ways. Cutting down trees and plants is the most popular way to clear a forest. Massive fires can also be used to sweep through the forest area, clearing the landscape immediately. Degradation of forests is disturbingly high in a few countries, such as Brazil and Indonesia. The Amazon forest, popularly known as the lungs of the earth, is the largest tropical rainforest on the planet earth. Parts of the Amazon forest are being destroyed to make way for several plantations such as sugar cane, coffee, tea, pineapple, bananas and palm oil plantations. A number of forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations. These plantations have devastating impacts on ecosystems and habitats. But as palm oil is cheaper than other vegetable oils, its demand has increased, causing large areas of forests to degrade. Indonesian forests are primarily cleared for palm oil plantations and other purposes such as mining and logging. Cattle ranching is also one of the reasons for deforestation and degradation of forests, mainly in the Amazon.
More than half of the tropical forests around the world have been cleared since the 1960s. Every minute, around one to two hectares of forests, are being demolished and destroyed. Deforestation is not limited to tropical rainforests only but to all kinds of forests and habitats. Approximately 3.7 million hectares of forests in Europe are slowly degrading due to forest fires, human-related practices, diseases and illnesses, insects and livestock. According to a report by the WWF, in the coming 15 years or so, forests approximately the size of Texas could be destroyed due to an increase in deforestation activities. The report also mentions that if these activities continue at a rapid pace, 11 important forests in the world will be the only forests covered by the year 2030. An estimated amount of 420 million acres of forest could be damaged between the years 2010 and 2030.
A report was published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in May 2020. The report was published in the latest edition of The State of the World’s Forests. The issue came out on the International Day for Biological Diversity (22nd May 2020). The report stated that immediate action is required to ensure the safety of our world’s biodiversity and forests amid the alarming pace of degradation and deforestation. According to the report, the conservation and protection of the world’s forests entirely rely upon the way in which we humans utilise and interact with nature. The report was created by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Technical input to the report was given by the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). This report mentioned the alarming rate of deforestation in the year 2020. We can only imagine the pace it has reached today, in 2022.
The latest issue of The State of the World’s Forests by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 2022 explores some new methods to achieve the recovery of forests and measures to tackle environmental issues. Three primary methods include pausing all activities related to deforestation and proceeding to protect forests, protecting and restoring damaged forests and increasing agroforestry practices, and lastly, utilising forests sustainably and developing green value chains. The issue states that action is needed right now to maintain the earth’s temperature below 1.5 degrees and decrease the risk of future ecological crises.
According to researchers and experts, Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is a possible solution to this serious problem. Sustainable and eco-friendly based solutions such as Forest landscape restoration (FLR) can greatly aid nations in reversing the impacts of degradation and deforestation. This method will also help to recover the lost environmental and natural benefits of nature. By using Forest landscape restoration (FLR), people across the world can come together to identify and incorporate various restoration projects in a forest. FRL tries to house the requirements of all the forest users, including humans, animals and various other species. This method does not only include planting trees but also implements practices like forest regeneration, agroforestry and control over erosion. An estimated 210 million hectares of land is committed to the FRL initiative. If the number of countries and landowners taking up this initiative increases, eventually, our forests can be restored to their original glory.