The Canopy Project

In honor of the forests

March 21st marks the 10th International Day of Forests since its establishment in 2012.

Forests are gravely important both ecologically and socially. Home to about 80% of the world’s biodiversity, forests are collectively the second biggest storehouse of carbon after oceans, absorbing significant amounts of greenhouse gasses. They also enhance biodiversity, while protecting waterways, enhancing soil nutrition, and providing buffers from natural disasters.

Forests not only benefit nature in so many ways, but are also extremely vital to humanity. A quarter of all modern medicines are made from plants that grow in tropical forests, with over 70,000 plant species being used in medicines around the world. An estimated 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods. Over 250 million people live in forests. The biodiversity and soil benefits forests provide help with crop viability, which increases food stability and availability. Forests also provide protection from natural disasters by acting as buffers for events such as floods. The societal reliance on forests highlights just how important they are to our collective survival and wellbeing. 

Despite the vast importance of forests for all aspects of life, they are disappearing right in front of us. Deforestation, climate change-related natural disasters, and expansion of industries such as agriculture and manufacturing have harmed forests worldwide significantly.

Deforestation and forest degradation impacts socioeconomically disadvantaged people significantly more. Areas more vulnerable to natural disasters typically have lower costs of living, making homes in these areas more accessible to people who may not be able to afford to live in areas less susceptible to natural disasters. Subsistence farming, or farming to provide for a family or small group, benefits greatly from the biodiversity and soil quality forests create. Subsistence farmers do not farm in search of profit, but rather to meet their own needs. Economically disadvantaged, rural communities are more likely to rely on subsistence farming, leaving them very vulnerable to changes in watercycles, soil erosion, and biodiversity that forests help regulate.

Despite the many benefits forests provide us, the world is losing about 10 million hectares of forest each year, an area about as big as Iceland. That being said, hope is not lost. Through reforestation efforts and better forest management, deforestation has halved in Asia and South America since the 1990s. With increased effort, forests, and the many benefits they provide, can be restored.

EARTHDAY.ORG’s Canopy Project works to plant saplings through involving the communities that rely on forests around the world. This International Day of Forests, lend a helping hand to the Canopy Project and say thanks to the forests that give us so much.