Forests cover nearly one third of the world’s land area, with nearly all forests inhabited by indigenous and rural communities. Beyond the importance of them as living quarters, forests are sacred to our overall ecosystem, environmental biome, animal habitat, and spiritual relief – to name a few.
With the threat of deforestation and environmental degradation, the stakes of reflecting and contemplating all that forests give to us, both on an individual and community level, are high.
In no particular order, here are the top ten reasons why forests truly matter…
They Absorb and Store Carbon
Forests are an integral member of the earth’s climate system. By growing trees in vast numbers, dangerous CO2 is effectively absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in their trunks, leaves, roots and forest soil. In effect, keeping humans alive and the natural ecosystem vital.
Provide Jobs and Livelihood
In the world, over 1.6 billion of the population depends on forests in some fashion for their livelihood, with a whopping 60 million indigenous people wholly dependent on forests for basic survival needs.
To boot, roughly 10 million of the world’s population is employed by forest management and conservation.
Affords Wood for Furniture, Firewood, and Other Products
In total, roughly 30 percent of the world’s forests are used for the production of wood and non-wood products. Evidently, wood is an integral element to the upkeep of lifestyles throughout the world – both in imminent necessity, such as medications, to utilitarian purposes, such furniture and firewood.
Home to Mammals, Insects, and Birds
Forests are the humble home to nearly half of the world’s species. In fact, many of the richest species biodiversity is found within the borders of tropical forests.
To support these species, insects and worms cycle nutrients through the soil, facilitating the entire ecosystem and animal kingdom.
The importance of forests are only magnified by the number of rare, endangered species that currently call the forest their home.
Home to Humans
Currently, over three hundred million humans around the world actively live in forests and are completely dependent on them for direct sources of food, livelihood and medicinal remedies.
Conserves Soil and Water
The importance of forests to soil and water are threefold:
· Trees play an essential role in the water cycle, by slowing down runoff and filtration of water into the soil.
· Trees preserve groundwater supplies that vital to entire populaces drinking water and the housing of large aquatic ecosystems.
· Trees help hold soil in place, reducing erosion caused by water and wind
During high seasonal rainfall, lowland forests are more susceptible to floodplains and torrents. Trees help absorb water and slow flood flows, preventing excessive damage to soil, property and local infrastructure.
Naturally Picturesque and Beautiful
Trees, beyond their utility are a source of inspiration, solace and beauty. Often referred to as a symbol of life, trees are beloved in many cultures, religions, and populations for their emblematic beauty and power.
In fact, a recent poll conducted by The Nature Conservancy showed that over 90 percent of Americans say trees provide them a feeling of “peace” and “tranquility” – proving that they’re loved by all cultures alike.
Regulate Climate and Local Temperatures
Trees are often planted in cities to subside the notorious “heat island” effect and provide much needed cooling shades and wind to homes and buildings. This, also, cuts air conditioning’s economic and environmental toll on urban areas!
In more secluded, natural and rural areas, large forests play an integral role in weather and rainfall patterns. For instance, the Amazon rainforests are responsible for dictating entire climates that are key to the areas agriculture and bio network.
For Recreation and Trail Blazing
The importance of trees and forests, to many, is their potential for recreational use and development, like hiking trails, snow sports, and even bird watching. This is especially pronounced in people who live in urban areas and escape to forests for solace, fitness, and spiritual renewal.
With so many reasons to love and appreciate the forests that we share the Earth with, it is vital that we can work together to conserve them and their beauty for future generations of humans and animals alike.