To Conserve Biodiversity, We Must Protect Our Forests – IISD

As we mark the International Day of Biological Diversity on 22 May, we need to remember that conserving the planet’s biodiversity also means protecting its forests.

Although they cover just over 30% of the global land area, forests are home to the vast majority of the terrestrial plant and animal species known to science. That includes 80% of amphibian species, 75% of bird species and 68% of mammal species.

 

Forests and woodlands themselves comprise over 60,000 tree species.

 

Mangrove forests also serve as a vital link to our marine biodiversity, providing breeding grounds and nurseries for numerous species of fish and shellfish.

 

Why is this forest biodiversity so vital?

 

In both low- and high-income countries, communities that live within forests rely directly on forest biodiversity for their lives and livelihoods, using products derived from forest resources for food, fodder, shelter, energy, medicine, and income generation.

 

Forest biodiversity benefits much of humanity as a whole through its role in the carbon, water, and nutrient cycles and through its links with food production, including seed dispersal and crop pollination.

 

Nevertheless, forests and their biodiversity are under threat from deforestation and forest degradation, which still continue at alarming rates.

 

An estimated 420 million hectares of forest – the area of India and Portugal combined – have been lost to deforestation since 1990. We continue to lose about 10 million hectares of forest each year, an area about twice the size of Costa Rica.

 

Clearly, deforestation negatively affects biodiversity, people, and the planet. It also threatens the achievement of the SDGs, including those seeking to protect life on land, eliminate poverty and hunger, and promote climate action and health.

 

As we work to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, let us not forget that deforestation and forest fragmentation often result in greater contact between humans, livestock, and wildlife, which in turn increases the risks of zoonotic diseases.

 

For all these reasons, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on the global community to “turn the tide on deforestation.” We must halt deforestation once and for all and restore ecosystems that are already damaged. In so doing, we will help achieve climate goals while conserving our precious biodiversity and the many benefits it provides.

 

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