Save the Forest!

Every year, the world celebrates International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22.

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Aug 10, 2011, 19:35 PM IST

Salome Phelamei

Every year, the world celebrates the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) on May 22 for promoting and understanding biodiversity issues. The day is also created for humankind to protect and preserve ecosystems - a very fragile balance that sustains life only here among millions of similar planets in the universe.

Earlier, the International Day for Biological Diversity was held on December 29, but in December 2000, the date was shifted to commemorate the adoption of the Convention on May 22, 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit and to avoid holidays during that part of the year.

For this year, Forest Biodiversity is the theme of the IDB. While the United Nations has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests, the period from 2011 to 2020 has been proclaimed as the UN-Decade on Biodiversity.

In this special year, the celebration theme focuses on Forests. The primary thought for the day is saving the forests and its biodiversity. Although, forests have always been of great significance to humans, the green pastures of the priceless terrain have been degrading by the hour due to damage done by men, fire and other natural calamities.

A forest is much more than just trees- it’s our lifeline, and is also home to an unimaginable number of flora and fauna. Most of our daily stuff – ranging from various types of food, fuel, medicinal herbs, furniture and clothing- are obtained from forests. Apart from providing us raw materials, forests maintain biodiversity, protect land and water resources, and play a significant role in climate change mitigation. Thus, forests are the most bio-diverse land-based-ecosystem and are simply necessary for human race.

However, forests are facing the heinous threat of deforestation, climate change, trade hunting and invasive alien species (IAS) – means non-indigenous species, plants and animals that damage the bioregions they invade. Forests are heavily exploited as a result of rapid climb in human population, poverty, farming, industrialisation, etc.

Forests’ preservation would also have a direct impact on those species which are on the verge of extinction. They also play a vital role in climate change mainly by affecting the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere. On top of that, forests donate extensively to a country’s economy and employment if administered sustainably.

India, which is amongst the most diverse countries in the world, with up to 47,000 species of plants and some 90,000 species of animals, has 21% of her geographical area under forest cover. According to the State Forest Report 2009, forest cover in the country has increased by 3.31 million hectares, in the last 10 years, showing an average 0.46% boost every year.

The Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in its report has stated that some large countries, including China (1.6%) and India (0.5% a year) had raised their forest cover between 2000 and 2010.With forests covering nearly 70% of its area in 2010, Sweden is now one of the world’s most sylvan countries. However, Nigeria has been slicing their forest down at a rate of 3.7% a year, and only one-tenth of its land remained forested by the end of 2010. Though the world continues to lose forests overall, the annual rate of deforestation over the last decade has fallen to 5.2m hectares, compared with 8.3m hectares a year between 1990 and 2000.

Perhaps, taking a note of the alarming situation in every nook and corner of the world, and with joint effort, we can save our woodlands, simultaneously, avoiding- cutting down of trees, logging activities, deforestation, industrial pollution, etc. Else, soon we might all be facing the dire consequences of delaying action. Hence, trees plantations such as a tree for every child should be our motto to conserve our planet.

Scientific Facts on Forest

- Forests cover a third of our planet`s land

- About 30% of the global total land area is covered by forests, this amount to just under 40 million km2

- The five countries with the largest forest areas are the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States and China

- Forest area decreased worldwide by 0.22% per year in the period 1990-2000 and 0.18% per year between 2000 and 2005

- World’s forest ecosystems are estimated to store more carbon than the entire atmosphere

- Rare tree species and those with high economic value are often in danger of becoming locally extinct. On average, 5% of the tree species natives to a country are threatened

- About 1% of forests (an area roughly the size of New Zealand) are consumed by fire each year, causing casualties, economic damage, loss of biodiversity and release of carbon to the atmosphere

- Globally, 3% of forest area is reported to be affected by insects and diseases