The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests; inviting governments, organizations and individuals around the world to raise awareness of the important role that forests, and the sustainable management of forests, play in building a greener, more sustainable future.
Celebrating forests for people
Healthy forests - jungles, woodlands and mangroves - and the relationship between forests and the people who depend on them are essential to the health of our planet.
Forests are key to understanding and tackling climate change, because they influence weather patterns and capture and store carbon. They sustain life, providing billions of people and other living organisms with the habitats and vital natural resources they need to survive.
Earthwatch recognizes the critical importance of healthy forests, and the rich diversity and complexity of forest ecosystems. We are proud to support the International Year of Forests, and in choosing to support Earthwatch and our forest research programs, you demonstrate your commitment to the International Year of Forests, helping to secure a sustainable future for forests all over the world.
How important are our forests?
- 31% of the world's entire land mass is forest
- Forests are home to a staggering 80% of terrestrial biodiversity
- 300 million people worldwide live in forests, many of whom depend upon them for shelter, medicine and clean water
- The livelihoods of 1.6 billion people depend on forests
- 36% of all forest is primary forest and is undisturbed by humans
- Annual trade in forest products was estimated in 2004 to be US$327 billion
- 30% of the world's forests are used for the production of timber and non-timber products
Supporting sustainable forest management and conservation
Climate change is predicted to have significant impacts on the world's forests. But precisely how much, and in what ways are questions scientists are still trying to answer. That's why Earthwatch is undertaking a five-year global program of forest research, which seeks to determine how our forests, both primary, and those influenced by human activities might respond to a changing climate.
We've set up five Regional Climate Centers, where scientists, supported by forest communities and employees of HSBC bank, are carrying out critical research that both assesses impacts, and seeks to understand how management interventions might counter the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems. We're also prioritizing research that improves our knowledge of the carbon cycle, and how plants and soils can function as carbon sinks.
With a focus on adaptation and mitigation, results from this program will enable forest managers, conservationists, and communities to understand how forests respond to climate change and how they can be better managed. For more information about the forest research taking place at Earthwatch Regional Climate Centers, visit our HSBC Climate Partnership pages.
You can find more information about the International Year of Forests and a full calendar of events on the UN International Year of Forests website.
22 May 2011 is the International Day for Biological Diversity, which this year focuses on forest biodiversity.
You can also do your bit to directly protect the world's forests, and raise awareness of the important role they play by joining any of Earthwatch's forest research projects:
Rainforest Canopies and Wildlife in Ecuador
Tidal Forests of Kenya
Puerto Rico's Rainforest
Climate Change in Brazil's Atlantic Rainforest
Climate Change in India's Western Ghat Forests
Climate Change in Wytham Woods
Climate Change in Chesapeake Bay Forests
Climate Change in China's Gutianshen Forests
Climate Change and Landscape in Borneo's Rainforest