Why March 21st is the most important day of the year — the International Day of Forests.
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness — John Muir
While we are blessed in British Columbia to be surrounded by tall trees and breathtaking forests, reality is, many people both near and far take them for granted. Created to raise awareness of the importance of forests to people, in 2012, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 21 the International Day of Forests.
The International Day provides a platform to communicate the vital role forests play in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and food security.
Sustainable management of all types of forests are at the heart of unlocking challenges of conflict-affected, developing and developed countries, for the benefit of current and future generations.
The history of human existence and civilizations is intertwined with forests and trees. Forests are crucial for the goods and services they provide, upon which people all over the world depend. Strategies to enhance the contributions of the world’s forests to social development, livelihoods and poverty eradication are vital at a time when unsustainable practices and economic crises continue to threaten healthy forests and the people who depend upon them.
Here are some interesting facts and figures about forests:
- Forests are home to 300 million people around the world
- Forests cover one third of the Earth’s landmass, performing vital functions around the world.
- Around 1.6 billion people — including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures — depend on forests for their livelihood.
- Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects
- Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air. They protect watersheds, which supply 75% of freshwater worldwide.
- Traditional forest-related knowledge accumulated over thousands of years is deeply linked with the cultures of indigenous and forest-dependent peoples
- More than 60 million people are employed by forest-based industries.
- Where forests are sustainably managed and utilized, they can contribute significantly to alleviating poverty and creating forest-based enterprises and services.
- Every one of us — all 7 billion of us — are connected to forests.
- Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air.
- Over 40 percent of the world’s oxygen is produced from rainforests.
- A tree releases 8 -10 times more moisture into the atmosphere than the equivalent area of the ocean.
- Healthy forests sustain healthy people.
- Tropical forests provide a vast array of medicinal plants used in healing and healthcare, worth an estimated $108 billion a year.
- More than a quarter of modern medicines originate from tropical forest plants.
- Forests curb transmission of infectious diseases. Undisturbed tropical forests can have a moderating effect on the spread of insect- and animal-borne disease.
- 40 percent of the world’s population lives in malaria-infested regions. Heavily deforested areas can see a 300-fold increase in the risk of malaria infection compared to areas of intact forest.
Few places celebrate forests quite like the University of British Columbia. Their 5,157 hectare Malcolm Knapp Research Forest is a working forest where students, faculty and researchers from UBC and beyond can study in an outdoor setting. Forest management, silviculture, forest harvesting, forest ecology, and conservation figure prominently in studies conducted at the research forests.
The Research Forest is also home to Loon Lake Lodge and Retreat Centre, allowing lodge guests a renewed appreciation for the wellness benefits of time spent in the woods.
When the students can’t go to the forests, the research on forests is brought to the students through studies, information, and plans. In doing so, UBC ensures that every day is March 21st — and we should be ever grateful for their continued efforts.