Forests and Trees

Why Forests and Trees Are Important

  • Half of all the world’s plant and animal species live in forests.
  • More than a quarter of the medicines we use come from rainforest plants.
  • Over a billion of the world’s poorest people rely on forests for their livelihoods. 
  • Trees clean the air we breathe by removing pollutants.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the air, which helps to slow climate change.
  • Trees help to prevent flooding and soil erosion.
  • Rainforests regulate the world’s rainfall and climate.
  • Trees are good for health and well-being.

What's Happening to Forests

  • One football pitch of forest is cut down every 2 seconds.
  • Human activities have led to the loss of nearly half the world’s trees.
  • Only 17% of forests left are protected.
  • We’re consuming forests! More than two thirds of rainforest destruction is carried out to produce commodities which end up in 50% of the products in our supermarkets according to expert organisation Global Canopy. Deforestation is also hidden in packaging, investments and pensions. 
  • Soy, beef, palm oil and wood products are the biggest contributors to deforestation; also, to a lesser extent, commodities such as cocoa, sugar, corn/maze and coffee, infrastructure projects and mining. See Union of Concerned Scientists.
  • 75% of soy production in Brazil is used for animal feed, about 20% for biofuel with just a tiny percentage (around 1%) used directly for human diet (eg tofu, soy milk).
  • Tropical deforestation contributes more than 12% of global warming emissions.
  •  The global trade in roundwood, paper, furniture, and other products originating from illegally extracted timber is a multi-million dollar industry according to WWF
  • 35-40% of trees cut for industrial purposes become paper products and whilst some of this wood comes from forestry practices, much of it comes from unsustainable deforestation in countries like Indonesia according to the Ecologist.

UK

Just 13% of the UK’s total land area has tree cover (vs 35% EU average). Only 2% is ancient woodland which harbours the greatest biodiversity. Read more about some of the organisations making a difference and opportunities to get involved in planting trees

What You Can Do To Help

Consume and Invest Responsibly

  • Consume with care, avoid waste and recycle.
  • Use less paper and recycle what you use.
  • Print double sided.
  • Print less – go digital.
  • Use reusable not disposable cups.
  • Use cloth rather than paper napkins.
  • Avoid packaging where you can.
  • Use recycled paper or paper certified by FSC, regarded as a gold international standard (use recycled for toilet tissue, see article below). PEFC is another international forest certification scheme. (See note below). 

  • Choose products made with sustainable palm oil or other sustainable alternatives. 
  • Reduce your meat consumption and buy local, pasture fed meat. 
  • Repair, restore, reuse furniture and wood.  Use vintage furniture or reclaimed timber where appropriate. 
  • Buy locally grown, sustainable wood eg FSC; FSC is also a standard to look for internationally. 
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  • Look at WWF’s Timber Scorecard to see how good retailers are at ensuring their timber comes from sustainable sources.  
  • Consult Friends of the Earth’s Good Wood Guide to see which timbers from around the world are critically endangered or vulnerable and ensure they come from sustainable sources or avoid buying them.
  • Look for the frog when you shop! Products from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms such as coffee, tea, cocoa and bananas are farmed more sustainably. Fair Trade is another standard incorporating environmental protection.
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  • Save and invest responsibly. Speak to your bank or investment company about ethical investment.  See also Global Canopy’s Forest 500 and SCRIPT initiatives.  

Support Charities to Protect and Restore the Natural World

  • Support conservation charities such as International Tree Foundation, Rainforest Concern, Tree Aid, World Land Trust and in the UK, the Woodland Trust and your local Wildlife Trust.   See more on these organisations and others working to protect and restore trees, forests, peatlands and wetlands.
  • Join Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace or WWF.

Plant

  • Plant trees – resilient native species.
  • Apply for support to plant trees (UK projects):
  • Join others in tree planting initiatives:

Lobby

  • Use your voice and vote to encourage positive change. 
  • Sign petitions or lobby for change – see more.
  • Write to your MP and local council for positive action on forests and trees.

Combat Climate Change

  • Reduce and offset your carbon footprint.  See more
  • Travel less.  Choose nature-friendly travel providers and places to stay.  
  • Choose ecosia.org as your search engine – you search the web, they plant trees.
  • See Friends of the Earth’s top tips to help climate and nature.

Please note Positive Nature has no formal affiliation with these organisations

Articles, Information and Links

Source: CIFOR (The Center for International Forestry Research)

NOTE: CIFOR’s World Forests Clock is illustrative to help stimulate debate on what’s happening to the world’s forests, and how forests and forestry can contribute to a sustainable future.  See Forest News Clocking the world’s forests 23 November 2012 for info on the five indicators and what they are based on: global deforestation; planted forests (which produce as much as two-thirds of industrial wood according to this article); renewable energy from biomass; carbon sequestration from forests; and the value of trade in forest products.