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Thursday, 21 March 2013

International Day of Forests 2013

Key messages

Deforestation Fell Almost 20 Per Cent in Past Decade, United Nations Secretary-General Says in Message for International Day of Forests 2013

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for the International Day of Forests, to be observed on 21 March:

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.  Three fourths of freshwater comes from forested catchment areas.  Forests stabilize slopes and prevent landslides; they protect coastal communities against tsunami and storm.  More than 3 billion people use wood for fuel; some 2 billion people depend on forests for sustenance and income, and 750 million live within them.

By proclaiming the International Day of Forests, the United Nations has created a new platform to raise awareness about the importance of all types of forest ecosystems to sustainable development.

Forests are often at the frontlines of competing demands.  Urbanization and the consumption needs of growing populations are linked to deforestation for large-scale agriculture and the extraction of valuable timber, oil and minerals.  Often the roads that provide infrastructure for these enterprises ease access for other forest users, who can further exacerbate the rate of forest and biodiversity loss.

Forests are also central to combating climate change.  They store more carbon than is in the atmosphere.  Deforestation and land-use changes account for 17 per cent of human-generated carbon dioxide emissions.  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.

Notwithstanding these immense challenges, there are encouraging signs.  The global rate of deforestation has decreased by almost 20 per cent in the past decade.  We need now to intensify efforts to protect forests, including by incorporating them into the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals.

On this first International Day of Forests, I urge Governments, businesses and all sectors of society to commit to reducing deforestation, preventing forest degradation, reducing poverty and promoting sustainable livelihoods for all forest-dependent peoples.

Ban Ki-Moon

During the International Year of Forests in 2011, the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) provided the following key messages for outreach initiatives.  They continue to hold true in 2013.

Forests and air

  • Over 40 percent of the world's oxygen is produced from the rainforests. 
  • Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity 
    in the air.

Forests and water

  • A tree releases 8-10 times more moisture into the atmosphere than the 
    equivalent area of the ocean.
  • Forests protect watersheds which supply fresh water to rivers.
  • Loss of forests could affect rainfall patterns globally, especially in food 
    growing regions in Latin America, the American mid-West and Central Asia. 
  • Deforestation leads to soil erosion and rivers being silted, which reduces 
    access to clean water.

Forests and biodiversity

  • Forests are home to over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. 
  • In the Amazon basin alone, more than 1,300 species of forest plants are 
    used for medicinal or cultural purposes.
  • 12% of the world’s forests are designated for the conservation of biological 
    diversity (FRA 2010).
  • Deforestation of closed tropical rainforests could account for the loss of as 
    many as 100 species a day.

Forests build resilience to natural disasters 

  • Nearly 330 million hectares of forest are designated for soil and water 
    conservation, avalanche control, sand dune stabilization, desertification 
    control or coastal protection. (FRA 2010)
  • Mangrove forests act as a barrier against tsunamis, cyclones and 
  • ‘Green Wall for the Sahara’ The European Union and African Union are 
    implementing a project to build a ‘green wall’ of trees across the Sahara 
    to push back desertification and to secure agriculture and livelihoods in 
    the sahelo-saharan zone.

Forests and land

  • Forests cover 31% of global land area
  • Forests and tree cover combat land degradation and desertification by stabilizing soils, reducing water and wind erosion and maintaining nutrient cycling in soils.

Forests are a key part of the climate change solution

  • The carbon in forests exceeds the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere.  FRA 2010 estimates that the world’s forests store 289 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in their biomass alone.
  • 17.4% of global greenhouse gas emission resulted from deforestation and forest degradation.
  • Forests offer the quickest, most cost-effective and largest means of curbing global emissions. It would save the world approximately $3.7 trillion between 2010 and 2200 if we halve greenhouse gas emissions (The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, 2006).

Healthy forests, healthy people

  • Tropical forests provide a vast array of medicinal plants used in healing and healthcare, worth an estimated $108 billion a year.  
  • More than a quarter of modern medicines originate from tropical forest plants.
  • Forests curb infectious diseases. Undisturbed tropical forests can have a moderating effect on insect- and animal-borne disease:
    • 40% of the world’s population lives in malaria infested regions. Heavily deforested areas can see a 300 fold increase in the risk of malaria infection compared to areas of intact forest.
    • 72% of emerging infectious diseases transmitted from animals to humans come from wildlife as opposed to domesticated animals. Deforested areas increase contact between wildlife and humans and affect pathogen transmission.

Forests are our livelihoods/wealth

  • 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and daily subsistence needs.
  • The global gross value-added in the forestry sector is US$ 468 billion.
  • The global trade in primary wood products is US$ 235 billion.
  • Tropical forests provide pollination services to agriculture valued at US$12 billion per year. 
  • Given that more than 1 billion hectares of degraded areas throughout the world are suitable for forest landscape restoration, community-based forest management could be woven into other existing rural economic activities.

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