Stepping into a forest, the stress from a busy day melts away. Despite the stillness and peace, forests are in fact alive with activity: like a beating heart, they work day and night for life on our planet to survive. From stabilising the climate to protecting wildlife and providing us with clean water, we all need forests – and now they need us.
Since civilisation began we have lost 46% of all trees on Earth. In the last 20 years, an area larger than Peru has been deforested. But when we raze them to the ground, it's more than just the trees that we lose. Here's why we need our forests – and why at South Pole, we're committed to protecting and fortifying these vital ecosystems:
1. Forests keep Earth cool
Forests help regulate global climate temperatures by absorbing and storing carbon – in other words they act as a giant sink for CO2 emissions, a greenhouse gas which is driving global heating. Trees lock in carbon until they die: most is stored in the trunks, branches and leaves, but did you know 20% is stored below ground in the roots?
Protecting and fortifying healthy forests is one solution that can help us reduce levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as outlined by the Paris Agreement and the 2018 IPCC Special Report.
2. Communities depend on them
Globally, 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods and wellbeing. In fact, forests can help alleviate poverty, one in 11 people are lifted out of extreme poverty because of access to forest resources. They also help empower women and support indigenous people by: providing them with vital resources; a sustainable livelihood from agroforestry; giving them a home either in or nearby a protected forest; and generating an income from financed forest carbon projects.
3. A safe haven for wildlife
Forests not only provide shelter for humans, they are home to 80% of the world's terrestrial animals. Scratch below the surface and forests are buzzing metropolises, brimming with wildlife – from the smallest beetle to the biggest elephant.
Habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest threats to the world's most endangered species, especially large mammals. Jaguars once roamed freely across the Americas, but with severe habitat loss ( the result of deforestation and land degradation) their numbers are dwindling. Projects such as the Jaguar Corridor initiative engage the local community to reconnect patches of forest, allowing these majestic animals to breed and roam more freely.
4. A bounty of food and goods
Chances are you've used or consumed something today that comes from a forest, maybe without even realising: a tissue, your morning coffee, a notepad. Forests provide people and wildlife with nuts, seeds, fruits, sap, mushrooms, berries – they are truly nature's kitchen. Forests supply us with many medicines – but less than 1% of tropical rainforest plants have been tested for their medicinal effects, who knows what else could be out there!
From root to fruit - farming near or sustainably in forests has lots of benefits: trees protect crops from winds, provide shelter from the harsh sun, stop soil erosion and increase nutrients, while more diverse wildlife help to pollinate crops and act as natural pest controls.
5. Nature's filter for clean air and water
Besides the goods we can see, forests also benefit us in ways that are not instantly obvious. Forests push 20 billion tonnes of water vapour into the atmosphere each day, which cools the earth by creating rain and driving air flows. Then they do the opposite; acting like giant sponges to prevent erosion and protect against flooding. Tree root systems also filter toxins out of the water, supporting healthy ecosystems below water and protecting our waterways from chemical contamination.