Environmentalism, Conservation, and Sustainability:
Part IV: Our Forests
A large dense coverage of trees grouped together so their foliage shades the ground is known as a forest. Forests may be found on every continent, with the notable exception of Antarctica, ranging from the evergreen-filled boreal woodlands in the north to mangrove swamps in tropical wetlands to the south. Forests account for more than 65 percent of all land species. The tropical rainforests are particularly rich in biodiversity.

 Our planet's forests offer habitats for a variety of animals and plants. They help to reduce global warming by storing carbon and producing oxygen. They protect the soil from erosion by reducing runoff. Through leaf litter, they add nutrients to the soil. They provide the resources of lumber and firewood.

Deforestation is the action of removing forests by cutting them down or burning them. People destroy forests to get access to the wood, for farming or development, on a yearly basis. The Earth loses about 14.6 million hectares (36 million acres) of forest each year due to deforestation—a size equal to that of the US state of New York.

Deforestation destroys animal habitats and promotes soil erosion. It is also responsible for 15% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. The people who rely on forests for their food, hunting, gathering, or harvesting forest products are also harmed by deforestation.

 The tropics, an area near the Equator that circles the Earth, contains roughly half of all the forests on Earth. Although tropical forests cover only 6 percent of the planet's surface, they contain over 80% of the world's known species. On the small island of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea, more than 500 distinct species of trees exist.

 We get a lot of useful things from tropical rain forests, including woods like mahogany and teak, rubber, fruits, nuts, and flowers. Plants found only in tropical rain forests provide many important medicines, such as quinine, a malaria medication; curare, a surgical anesthetic; and rosy periwinkle extract, which is used to treat cancer. These are only a few of the medicines that are derived from our tropical rainforests.

 We must embrace sustainable forestry methods to ensure that these resources are available for future use. One of these techniques is to allow certain trees to die and decay naturally in the forest. This "deadwood" improves the soil. Using low-impact logging methods, harvesting with natural regeneration in mind, and avoiding various logging processes like removing all the largest high-value trees from a forest are all important methods to sustain our forests.

Consumers may also help to preserve trees by recycling. If 50% of the world's paper was recycled, much of the global demand for new paper would be met, saving many trees on Earth. We can also do more to utilize alternatives like bamboo, a grass, as a replacement for many wood products. Bamboo can also be used in apparel.





September 18, 2023 — Debby McKnight