2011 - UN Year of Tree Biodiversity and Forests
Each year the United Nations chooses a theme for the year. In 2010 they highlighted the horrendous number of bird, animal, plant and insect species on the brink of extinction. For 2011 they have selected the world's forests because of their value to people, to biodiversity, to climate and therefore the future of life on Earth.
The UN website lists several reasons why we should care about forests:
Forests cover 31% of total land area.
Primary forests account for 36% of forest area.
Forests are home to 80% of our terrestrial biodiversity.
Forests are home to 300 million people around the world.
The livelihoods of 1.6 billion people depend on forests.
30% of forests are used for production of wood and non-wood products.
Trade in forest products was estimated at $327 billion dollars in 2004.
As soon as people fashioned the first stone axe they began cutting down trees. The biblical Cedars of Lebanon were not alone in being felled and transported for a prestigious building. Even with primitive tools we managed to denude the forests of the countries bordering the Mediterranean . In recent decades the power saw has achieved in seconds what once took hours, and the devastation of our forests has increased dramatically.
As the list from the United Nations shows, trees are immensely useful. Over 60% of forests are secondary growth or plantations. Much of those plantations are single species for a specific use such as palm oil - and not great for biodiversity! When huge areas are cleared, such as continues in the Amazon rainforests today, not only the trees are lost, but also the wildlife, the indigenous people who lived off the forest sustainably, and regional weather patterns are disturbed. If current practices continue even the Amazon rainforest will dry up before the end of this century.
We can help by:
only buying wood products with the FSC mark (Forest Stewardship Council) which certifies sustainable forestry products
buying paper products made from recycled paper
planting trees ourselves
protecting our 'public' or 'amenity' trees.