A new report shows just how important local communities are in protecting forests and improving the health of people across the world.

One of the key reasons that Carbon Balanced Paper works with World Land Trust (WLT) is the environmental charity’s success in purchasing and securing threatened areas of land, ensuring that it continues to be protected for years to come. This protection is provided by partners that employ people from local communities, people who know the area and the importance it has in the lives of the people that live there.

For local communities living in or near the forests of countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala and Vietman, it’s vital that these areas are protected from threats such as agricultural deforestation, poachers and wildfires, as forests not only provide a home, but also food, shelter and employment.

But while the hard work and expertise of indigenous people helps their local communities and wildlife, it also helps the wider world. By protecting the forests, local people make a significant contribution to reducing pollution in the atmosphere, which improves the health of millions across the world and reduces climate change.

Illness prevention

Following the analysis of ten years of data, new research has found that protected indigenous reservations in the Amazon rainforest absorb as much as 26,000 metric tons of airborne pollution released by wildfires every year, saving around $1.2bn annually in healthcare costs for treating respiratory and cardiovascular diseases1.

The study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, found that each hectare of burning forest costs cities at least £1m for treating associated illnesses, while showing that by absorbing pollutants from the fires, forests prevent an estimated 15 million cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease every year1.

“Worldwide, forests are known for absorbing pollutants from fires through pores on the surface of the leaves, but this is the first time we have estimated the capacity of tropical forests to do this,” said Dr Paula Prist, senior research scientist at the EcoHealth Alliance and lead author of the study. “The number of fires has been increasing in the last few years, and in 2020, deforestation rates reached the highest levels of the decade in the Brazilian Amazon.”

Global benefits

The report highlights the vital role indigenous people have in preventing devastating wildfires and lowering disease, but their protection of forests also ensures the steady supply of food and fuel for local communities, as well as life-saving medicines from the plants that grow there. Many common drugs, including some used for treating cancer and diabetes, are derived from forests, while plants are constantly being researched for their medicinal properties.

Carbon Balanced Paper understands the importance of WLT’s work with local partners in protecting threatened land around the world. Whether it’s Nangaritza Valley in Ecuador, the coastal forests of Guatemala, the forests of Sierra de Xilitla in Mexico, or the Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Vietnam, indigenous people protect the land as well as ensure the project has a positive impact on local communities.

By becoming involved with Carbon Balanced Paper, you’re not only helping to protect vast areas of forest and combating climate change, but making a positive impact on the health of millions of people around the world. 


1Paula R. Prist, Protecting Brazilian Amazon Indigenous territories reduces atmospheric particulates and avoids associated health impacts and costs, Communications Earth & Environment (2023)

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