It's no secret that the world's forests are in great danger. Humans, by starting global urbanization, have unwarily destroyed many forests, and this constant loss of trees has continued ever since. Even now, at this minute, the planet is losing more than 40 football fields worth of trees. In addition, we lose much of the clean air during this process. DGB helps to build a global system that make forests more valuable when kept standing and alive instead of logging for timber exploitation.
Yes, the world indeed works towards financing reforestation, although it's not enough to compensate for the immediate loss. This life-threatening balance needs to be restored.
Forests are our lungs, and we are losing them at the speed of light. With it, we slowly lose our natural protection of the water and biodiversity living in it. Consequently, we unknowingly help the destructive free radicals in the air destroy our planet, by which we destroy ourselves. Fortunately, 30% of the total land on Earth, still belongs to the forests. In other words, about 30% is still qualified as nature, as there is still life happening there, and there are still some of the most breathtaking landscapes the human hand hasn't touched yet. Although humans look, act, and behave much differently in modern times, we once did live there, or at least our ancient ancestors did, and they did evolve at one point. The truth is, our roots still undeniably lie in these forests. And even though at the beginning it all looked like it was a giant forest that could never end, industrialization brought the forests much closer to extermination. With it, many of the endangered species are also coming close to extermination, while some of them have already become a memory in our planet's history.
Forests form a fundamental landscape to our planet, covering approximately 30% of all landmass. When seen from above, a forested landscape leaves the viewer awe-struck with bewilderment, imagining all of the happenings that occur within and below the forest canopy. One can only begin to grasp the immensity of life that occurs within these forests and the beauty that they hold. Perhaps it's this immensity that has left Humans throughout history with a misconception that forests are endless and immune to the impacts of human touch. After all, we did evolve from tree-dwelling apes, who survived in the intermittently scattered trees of the African Savannah. Downing a single tree seemed like a heroic task to our not-so-distant ancestors.
Unfortunately, this is just a misconception. Forests as we once knew them, are highly endangered ecosystems that have been vastly deforested and degraded throughout most of our planet. Since 1990 around 129 million hectares of forest have been lost, an area roughly the size of South Africa. The same notion of the invincible forest applies directly to our earth, which seems so immense but is a fragile system already in danger from the hands of man. Nature deterioration threatens the quality of life for our growing human population and the large diversity of species that co-inhabit our planet.
Forests contain and form the home of many of these threatened species, but protecting these forests also forms one of the important strategies necessary to reduce the severity of impact of nature deterioration. Today forests continue being overexploited and destroyed in inconceivable quantities due to economic pressures that drive forest degradation and deforestation. Protecting these forests plays a pivotal role in securing the important ecosystem services that they provide.
The various ecosystems on Earth wouldn’t be able to survive under the conditions the planet would, if most of the trees were gone.
The air wouldn’t be still breathable if the forests didn't reduce all the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the air. During the process of photosynthesis, not only do we ignite the food chain, but it also mobilizes CO2 in the trees' cells to produce oxygen. This is mostly where the reduction of CO2 comes from. We aim to plant enough trees to convert the excess amount of CO2 into oxygen, directly through their cells. The benefits of the human organism are endless. The prevention of CO2 emissions can be done if we just let our planet breathe, simply by leaving the trees to exist and do their job. We can do so by not reducing the forests, increasing them instead.
Without forests, the Earth as we know it would be a much different place. It would be a world of extreme climates, largely inhospitable to humans and our planet's great biodiversity. While everyone is familiar with the importance of wood as a resource, many people still don't understand how forests serve to protect the natural cycles that are important to our lives. We must maintain healthy forests across our planet to ensure that the services provided by them continue functioning in the same way they have for thousands of years. Our modern civilization developed under the great fortune provided by forests and if we fail to protect them we risk entering an era of famine, poverty, and social unrest attributed to these conditions.
Environmental services are all the important functions that healthy ecosystems provide to make our planet a pleasant and hospitable place. These are things like water security, arable land, stable climates, and the wealth of resources provided by the earth's biodiversity. These are more than just extracted resources like lumber but in fact, play a fundamental role in the ability to sustain our civilization.
Today through the burning of fossil fuels and other CO2 emitting practices we have tipped the Earth's CO2 budget completely out of balance and are emitting more CO2 than the natural world can absorb. This is causing CO2 levels in our atmosphere to increase dramatically. For us to have any hope in preventing a complete catastrophe we will need to work together with forests to help store carbon and mitigate the devastating impacts.
Forests have a large capacity to sequester carbon because of their high productivity, large biomass, and soils rich in organic matter. About 80% of above ground and 40% of belowground carbon is stored within the earth's forests. When we protect forests we are allowing them to continually store more CO2 and preventing CO2 emissions triggered by deforestation practices. Protecting intact forests is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions all while protecting other valuable environmental services. While reforestation will be important, conserving already intact forests is unparalleled in efficiency and effectiveness.
While Humanity has made some strides towards the protection of forests in recent history, it is gruesomely overshadowed by a widespread history of deforestation on a global scale. Deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for about 15% of the world's carbon emissions. From 1861-2000 deforestation accounted for 30% of GHG emissions. Yearly GHG emissions from deforestation in tropical countries are greater than the entire GHG emissions produced by the European Union.
Just by existing, forests are sequestering carbon into they're living biomass and soils. The high rates of productivity achieved by intact forest ecosystems are unparalleled because of their dense canopies, deep root systems, and complex forest structure that allows them to maximize the quantity of sunlight and water resources they can use for photosynthesis. When a forest is destroyed, we destroy an active carbon-sequestering system. While younger successional forests also sequester carbon, it is unparalleled to intact primary forests.
Deforestation leads to an increase in great amounts of greenhouse gasses. These gases are released by burning the once-living materials, clearing vast forested areas for the industries. By burning the trees to the ground, even more than 10% of the greenhouse gases (GHG) are released into the atmosphere. Deforestation in some countries with large forested areas increases pollution equivalent to more than 85 million cars on a yearly basis! Imagine the impact deforestation has on the atmosphere.
With deforestation, we limit our clean water supply. Yes, it means that we limit our freshwater, otherwise naturally filtered by forests. Thus, by not protecting the soil, it may lead to erosion, as the biodiversity gets ruined in the process. The natural balance of things is disrupted in a non-natural way.
Much of today's deforestation occurs with the primary goal of clearing land for agriculture and livestock. The conventional agricultural practices that replace once intact forests are usually dependent on chemical fertilizers/pesticides which contaminate water, destroy soil fertility, and contribute to large quantities of GHG emissions. Livestock also releases large quantities of GHGs and keep the once lush forests landscapes as relatively unproductive pastures that sequester very small quantities of carbon. These conventional practices contribute significantly to all GHG emissions.
The great number of species found in the world's forests are overwhelmingly diverse and many remain unknown to science. Unfortunately due to the continuing rate of deforestation many species are going extinct before we even know they exist. Every time we lose a species its millions of years of evolution lost. Biodiversity not only holds beautiful and intrinsically valuable species but also many species that may serve as important medicinal, structural, or food resources that we are completely unaware of. Forests serve as biological libraries of species and genes that could help us develop novel solutions to the many problems faced by our planet today.
Forests are an integral part of the hydrological cycle that provides clean, freshwater to the Earth's human populations and ecosystems. They help retain water in the land where it can feed rivers or be accessed from the groundwater for long periods of time after it fell as rain. This prevents drought while simultaneously preventing flash floods, landslides, erosion, and threatening the ecological structure of freshwater ecosystems.
The role forests play in protecting water is associated with their ability to slow, sink, and spread water. These are the Three Sisters of Water Security. This process begins before the water even touches the ground, as it's intercepted by the forest canopy. In heavily vegetated forests, rain may not even touch the ground until several minutes of rain pass because it becomes caught on the dense foliage.
Slow-moving water that has been properly intercepted by a forest canopy will subdue to the process of infiltration where it makes its way deep into the soil. Water can then be stored in the ground, sometimes for thousands of years, until it finds its way to springs and other bodies of water. This can provide water to rivers and lakes for many days or months after the last rain, enhancing the region's access to fresh water.
Forests protect the soil by slowing down the water, promoting infiltration, and acting as a biological glue that holds soil together. When deforestation occurs several factors contribute to erosion and soil depletion. First rain will reach the soil faster, often overwhelming the soils ability to conduct infiltration that has been impaired by the deforestation. This causes water to flow above the soil surface where it carries the soil sediments to small streams and eventually into larger rivers. The lack of roots, organic matter, and the replacement of forests with bad agricultural practices will further contribute to erosion.
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is an internationally driven strategy to protect forest ecosystems and reduce global GHG emissions. REDD+ is a multinational effort primarily funded by wealthier, high GHG emitting countries, to mitigate their impacts by protecting forests in less developed nations. It works through financial incentives given to countries with high rates of deforestation in exchange for the protection, sustainable management, and enhancement of vulnerable forests. This payment is intended to offset the economic opportunities, like the production of agricultural commodities, for which deforestation is a byproduct. As of 2018, there were an estimated 467 REDD+ projects in a total of 57 countries. While deforestation is still underway at alarming rates, it is estimated that REDD+ has been successful at reducing global GHG emissions due to deforestation by hundreds of millions of tons of CO2.
While human impacts on forests are part of the disastrous cocktail that is fueling desertification, forests themselves are greatly under-threat from the impacts of our changing climate. Droughts, flooding, fires, and extreme temperatures are putting forest species under-threat and leading to irregular mortality rates and loss of ecosystem function. Stress-induced by these conditions is further promoting infectious diseases and pests that are putting the final nail in the coffin for many trees that are already on the brink of survival. Reducing the severity of forest fragmentation and watershed degradation will all be important factors in protecting vulnerable forests.
Forests are highly valued resources that will require active preservation strategies with adaptive management and monitoring. Long-term protection will require the formation of new economic opportunities, development of alternative resources, changes in agricultural practices, and international collaboration to reduce the drivers of forest alteration. Even the most protected forests today may be under-threat with future economic uncertainties and climatic conditions. It is fundamental to the security of our planet that we actively invest in the protection of these forests to avoid the climatic repercussions of their loss. It will take a massive feat to accomplish widespread protection of forests, but it will be necessary for the future of a stable and healthy planet.
Like DGB, more companies must invest in helping the forests grow again, protecting them to make sure we don't repeat the same mistake twice. Investing in DGB means we simply invest in our future, getting back the stable climate, fresh water, and clean air. Without any financial support, many of the world's forests are still in danger and it might not be enough to cover the damage we do on a daily basis. Therefore, it's crucial to pay as much attention and efforts to decrease forest degradation.