From capturing and storing carbon to purifying water, forests play a significant role in the lives of billions around the world.
With the UN confirming that the past eight years were the hottest ever recorded, there will be more than a few people seeking the shade of nearby woodland to grab some fresh air next summer without burning their skin. But forests around the world perform many roles and offer a huge number of benefits, not only for the local population but the Earth as a whole. We take a look at the most important.
Forests are one of the world’s largest most important areas for capturing and storing carbon, absorbing around a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans. A quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in tropical forests alone1, and a tree will continue to store carbon once it’s been harvested2.
This sequestering of carbon gives forests an important role in combatting climate change, providing 30% of the solution to keeping global warming below two degrees3. But the process of deforestation not only takes this vital tool for carbon conversion away, but adds to the problem of climate change thanks to the stored carbon being released into the atmosphere.
As well as 60,000 different tree species, the world’s forests are home to 80% of amphibian species, 75% of bird species, and 68% of mammal species4. But when that habitat is destroyed, those animals are often unable to survive in the small pockets of forestry left behind. Along with losing most of their habitat, animals are more accessible to hunters and poachers, resulting in entire species pushed close to extinction. According to a recent paper by Oregon State University ecologists, 67% of forest primate species are threatened with extinction, with tropical deforestation being a major risk factor5.
Provide livelihoods for local people
Forests also have a key role as a highly renewable resource for humans, supporting the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. It’s estimated that forests provide more than 86 million green jobs globally6, including 3.5 million in Europe7. For millions more, forests make the difference between life and death, providing a rich source of food, water and fuel.
Forest-based activities such as hunting and fishing provide over 20% of household protein requirements in developing countries2, with non-timber products such as fruits, vegetables and mushrooms important components of the diet in rural areas. In addition, over two billion people rely on traditional forest medicines for their health2.
Protect water supplies
Forests have a pivotal role in the water cycle, absorbing water either as direct rainfall or through their roots, before the process of evapotranspiration re-releases this water into the atmosphere. Not only do a third of the world’s largest cities receive a significant proportion of their drinking water from forests4, but the process results in decreased risk of drought and desertification. The root systems of trees are also vital in the stabilization of soil, helping to prevent erosion and landslides, as well as purifying water by trapping sediments and pollutants.
By tackling carbon, reducing deforestation and protecting threatened species, brands choosing Carbon Balanced Print and Paper can meet the needs of their customers, their own Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance commitments, and the planet.
Help protect forests rich in biodiversity by choosing Carbon Balanced Print and Paper, contact us to learn more.
3Global Forest Watch
5Putting a Face on Carbon with Threatened Forest Primates, Oregon State University, 2022
6FAO and UNEP, The State of the World’s Forests, 2020
7Greensource, The Added Value of the Forest-Based Industry, 2021