“Forests are a major, requisite front of action in the global fight against catastrophic climate change— thanks to their unparalleled capacity to absorb and store carbon.” -UN’s Environment, Development, & Agriculture Chiefs joint statement, 2018
That capacity to absorb and store carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, is why forests remain at the forefront in global talks around combating climate change. The process of saving them is unique to each region due to differences in surrounding communities, environmental conditions, and even politics. Massive areas of forests have been disturbed all over the planet through deforestation; some even hover on the edge of complete destruction. Reforestation is one of the crucial steps to overcoming deforestation and restoring the natural balance of plant life around the world. Not only are new forests a natural benefit for us right now, they will continue to be a natural asset for future generations.
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What is a forest?
Hundreds of definitions of forests are used throughout the world, but simply put, forests are, “Large areas chiefly covered by trees and undergrowth.”-Oxford Dictionary. But this definition does little to capture their spectacular diversity. Trees are some of the oldest living things on this earth. From the forests of the massive ancient Sequoias on North America’s west coast, to the tropical forests of South America, to pristine sloping forests in Africa, these trees are the lungs of our planet. Home to a diverse range of plants and animals, actually entire ecosystems all around the world, forests are vital in:
- Maintaining water cycles.
- Preventing soil erosion.
- Maintaining the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in earth’s atmosphere.
- Regulating climate.
- Supplying essential, irreplaceable resources of medicine and food.
- Fight erosion.
- Provide homes for an estimated 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species.
- Store carbon dioxide- a primary greenhouse gas (causes global warming).
- Use CO2 to grow tree components (limbs, roots, leaves).
- Store carbon dioxide for long periods of time, with older trees storing more than younger trees. Thus making old-growth forests a crucial resource to stabilizing the global climate.
What is Deforestation?
Data shows that forests cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area. But that number is declining quickly. Since the beginning of the 20th century, 20 percent of the world’s forest coverage is gone. The United Nations’ Agriculture Organization states:
Approximately HALF of earth’s tropical forests have already been stripped. 18 million acres of forest are removed EVERY YEAR. That’s about the size of South Carolina.
Deforestation from development, agriculture, cattle farms, logging, mining, and fires are destroying large areas of forest at an unprecedented rate. As outlined above, the importance forests play in maintaining whole ecosystems as well as our planet’s climate, makes deforestation a serious threat to mankind’s existence. Deforestation issues:
- The greenhouse effect due to an excess of carbon compounds in the air.
- The Atlantic forest in South America is losing hundreds of native wildlife that cannot be found anywhere else on earth.
- Forests are some of the most disturbed ecosystems in the world.
- 30 million acres of tree cover—8.8 million of which were old-growth forest, were wiped out last year.
- Once gone, the food, habitat, carbon storage, and every other ecosystem service they provide is destroyed.
- No guarantee reforestation will bring those functions back.
What is Reforestation?
Reforestation (also called afforestation) is the process of regenerating or replanting forest areas that have been destroyed or damaged. Sometimes forests regenerate on their own if there are enough trees left in the surrounding area to disperse seeds. But most forests have been so badly degraded that they cannot be regenerated without assistance from intentional planting projects.
Stated simply, to save our planet from catastrophic weather related damage. Secondarily, reforestation can stabilize land from erosion, improve soil health, promote revival of native fauna, and provide economic development for associated communities.
Needless to say, reforestation is an extremely important strategy in saving the planet. One of the global climate leaders, Earthday.org, has shown how planting billions of trees across the world is one of the least expensive and largest ways of taking CO2 out of the air to get a better handle on the climate crisis. Forests are carbon hoarders, purifying our breathing air while also regulating local temperatures as well as being habitats for endangered animals.
EarthDay.org Reforestation Map
How To Implement
Countries around the globe are working with their governments to enact stringent policies around forest protection and restoration. Leaders are understanding that a collective global effort is needed to achieve a long term sustainable outcome. Environmental organizations already have practices in place to this end, such as:
- Working to protect forests with educational practices, teaching people the importance of forests.
- Sharing methods of reforestation.
- Working to expand the areas of protected lands.
EarthDay.org started the Canopy Project in 2010, planting trees across the globe. Since beginning, they have planted tens of millions of trees worldwide (see map above). Working with global partners, EarthDay.org is reforesting areas in dire need of rehabilitation, including some of the world’s most at-risk communities. Notably, after environmental disasters, broad tree planting efforts are immediately implemented. EarthDay.org knows that reforestation is one of the most important and accessible ways to contribute to solving the challenges of climate change. The Canopy Project continues to remain committed to international reforestation programs.
How To Do Your Part
There are so many organizations taking the lead in reforestation projects only a few are listed here. You can support them financially or join them locally in your area. Links below.
The Tree Foundation – 10 Things You Can Do To Save Forests
It doesn’t take much effort to make a difference and support this cause, mainly awareness and willingness to think about your future and generations to come. Start by planting a sapling on your property, in your community. See how good it feels to be part of nature’s cycle and lend Her a helping hand in repairing human’s damage to earth. Be aware of the resources you use; how you can reduce, reuse, and recycle them. Make conscious purchasing choices from sustainable companies. It is 100 percent true: every single one of us can make a difference. Get involved!
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