Life-sustaining value of Earth’s forests highlighted on International Day of Forests
Washington, D.C. – 21 March 2013
– The world pauses today, International Day of Forests, to recognize the life-sustaining value of Earth’s threatened forests. The livelihoods of more than 1.6 billion people around the globe directly depend on forests – as does the endurance of Earth itself. WWF’s global Forest and Climate Initiative is joining in today’s celebration working, as it does every day of the year, to conserve and value forests for the benefit of people and nature.
Forests cover one-third of Earth and breathe life into our world – literally. Over 40 percent of the world's oxygen is produced by tropical forests, while forests contribute to the critical balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air. But with more than 1.6 billion people – often the world’s most impoverished – directly dependent on forests as a natural resource providing fuel wood, lumber for housing and nourishment, forests are under threat like never before.
Rates of deforestation remain alarmingly high. An astonishing 5.2 million hectares of forests are lost each year to deforestation and forest degradation – the equivalent of a football pitch/soccer field every second. The impact is two-fold – this important resource vanishes and harmful carbon gases are released into the atmosphere. Deforestation and forest degradation account for up to 20% of the world’s carbon gas emissions, more than the global transport industry – all the automobiles, trucks, trains, airplanes, ships in the world.
For these reasons, WWF’s global Forest and Climate Initiative is working on the ground in key tropical forest countries and at the global policy level to conserve forests and to harness their value for people’s livelihoods, development, biodiversity and the climate.
“Forests are life-sustaining to people and our planet,” said Bruce Cabarle, leader of WWF’s Forest and Climate Intiative. “They are an important natural resource for the millions of people that depend on them, and help to keep our fragile Earth in balance. Today, International Day of Forests, it is important to recognize this and for the global community to reaffirm its commitment to conserving forests.”
Key forest facts1 :
Forests and biodiversity
• Forests are home to over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity.
• In the Amazon basin alone, more than 1,300 species of forest plants are used for medicinal or cultural purposes.
• 12% of the world’s forests are designated for the conservation of biological diversity (FRA 2010).
• Deforestation of closed tropical rainforests could account for the loss of as many as 100 species a day.
Forests and air
• Over 40 percent of the world's oxygen is produced from rainforests.
• Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air.
Forests are a key part of the climate change solution
• The carbon in forests exceeds the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere. FRA 2010 estimates that the world’s forests store 289 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon in their biomass alone.
• Up to 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions are a result of deforestation and forest degradation.2
• Forests offer the quickest, most cost-effective and largest means of curbing global emissions. It would save the world approximately $3.7 trillion between 2010 and 2200 if we halve greenhouse gas emissions (The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, 2006).
Forests are our livelihoods
• 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and daily subsistence needs.
• The global gross value-added in the forestry sector is US$ 468 billion.
• The global trade in primary wood products is US$ 235 billion.
• Tropical forests provide pollination services to agriculture valued at US$12 billion per year.
• Given that more than 1 billion hectares of degraded areas throughout the world are suitable for forest landscape restoration, community-based forest management could be woven into other existing rural economic activities.
For more information about WWF’s global REDD+ work, visit: www.panda.org/forestclimate. Connect with us via Twitter at www.twitter.com/wfforestcarbon and on YouTube at www.youtube.com/wwfforestclimate