Over 410 million people directly depend on forests for subsistence and income. Another estimated 1.6 billion people indirectly depend on forest goods and services for their livelihoods.
Every day forests provide benefits vital to life on Earth and to the quality of human life in particular. Currently, some 410 million people are highly dependent on them for subsistence and income, and 1.6 billion people depend on forest goods and services for some part of their livelihoods.
In a more general sense, the entire global population depends on forests for their carbon-sequestering services. Forests have always been crucial to human life and economies, and they will become increasingly significant as the global human population grows by another 30 per cent – to 9 billion people – by mid-century. At the same time, our forests face many threats as a result of unsustainable use.
As we move forward, our forests must play a critical role in supporting the growth of a global green economy.
At Greenwood-Management we understand the need for innovative solutions to be found to ensure sustainable forest management in the face of the many threats at hand. Forests are key assets in the structuring of a green economy as they provide a wide variety of services, including ecological infrastructure, which comprises public goods such as water and carbon regulation and tradeable goods such as timber, fibre, biomass and non-timber forest products. They also act as a source of livelihood, natural insurance, adaptation, employment and health services.
Focusing on forests helps draw attention to the importance of creating a green economy at the local, regional and global levels.
The Value of Forest Assets
As natural capital in a green economy, forest assets are important at many levels and in many sectors, and constitute the source of significant benefits to people, ranging from providing subsistence to mitigating the impacts of climate change.
At the local level, forest-dependent communities benefit from having access to materials such as timber, medicines and wood for fuel. Furthermore, forests provide many communities with their only means of gaining access to formal markets.
At the regional level, forests are instrumental in the provision of key ecosystem services such as water regulation, soil stability, flood mitigation and air quality.
At the global level, forests make an important contribution to economic development, biodiversity and climate regulation.
Wood and manufactured forest products add more than $450 billion to the world market economy each year, and the annual value of internationally traded forest products is between $150 billion and $200 billion.
Besides providing wood and other products, forests are home to much of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, which in and of itself provides benefits for gene pools, pharmaceuticals and other unique and highly valuable goods and services. Forests also contain large amounts of sequestered carbon and their destruction or degradation (especially by burning) is currently estimated as accounting for 12–15 per cent of all carbon gas emissions into the atmosphere.
In addition, through natural carbon capture and storage, terrestrial forest ecosystems contribute to the planetary carbon cycle by storing more carbon in their soil and organic material than is currently stored in the atmosphere and playing an important role in the human response to the challenges of the changing climate.
The value of your investment to our environment…
The environmental values inherent in forest assets range from global to local levels:
Global medical innovation: Many medical products in common use today would not exist without the presence of forests, and pharmaceutical companies are engaged in searching forests for ingredients for new drugs and other medical innovations;
Global climate change: Forests play a major role in sequestering carbon dioxide as a way to reduce the impact of global climate change. Globally the overall carbon storage of forests constitutes 54 per cent of the 2,200 gigatons of the total carbon pool in terrestrial ecosystems.
Standing forests have an average maximum potential carbon sequestration rate of 1.1–1.6 gigatons per year, including above and below ground pools;
Regional climate regulation: Forests act as massive water pumps through water transpiration. Loss of forest cover has been linked to regional climate change in both temperate and tropical forest systems. These losses contribute to environmental tipping points such as drought and insect epidemics and increased natural hazards, such as fire, that further contribute to climatic shifts;
Regional sediment control: Forests help to produce clean water in rivers and streams by reducing sediment loss from watersheds, particularly those caused by intense rain events that occur on steep slopes;
Regional water regulation: By promoting the infiltration of water into soils, forests help to maintain a more even flow pattern in rivers, thus reducing the threat of flooding while helping to maintain higher base flows during the dry season through promoting slower sub-surface water flow. Forests can reduce the risk of landslides, improve local and downstream water quality, promote aquatic health, including in fisheries, and maintain the quality and clarity of coastal water;
Local soil fertility improvement: Forests help to provide inputs for healthy soil and nutrient cycling, while preventing soil loss at the local level. Agroforestry, as opposed to slash and burn systems, has been shown to increase agricultural production and decrease soil losses;
Local viable wildlife populations: Forests provide the habitat for many wildlife species of local and global importance that could provide the basis for an economically productive ecotourism industry.
Contact Greenwood-Management to find out more…