The United Nations proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012 to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of forests of all types. Each year, events scattered around the world celebrate the contribution of trees to our life. Under the motto “Learn to love forests!” the focus for 2019 is on the role of education in achieving sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation.
Explore in 10 facts how we can learn to love forests and get engaged in a local campaign!
1) Forests are home to over 80 percent of land animals and plants and cover 31 percent of the world’s total land area. About 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and daily subsistence needs.
2) A tree can sequester up to 150 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year. The world’s forests store an estimated 296 gigatonnes of carbon in both above- and below-ground biomass. Just imagine: Europe’s 400 billion trees currently absorb almost 9 percent of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions!
3) Trees are important for creating sustainable cities: in urban areas, they can cool the air by up to 8 degrees, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 percent. Urban trees are also excellent air filters, removing harmful pollutants and fine particulates.
4) Wood fuel provides 40 percent of today's global renewable energy supply – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined. Greater investment in technological innovation and in sustainably managed forests is key to increasing forests' role as a renewable energy.
5) Forest products contribute to reducing and replacing polluting and carbon intensive materials. Certified wood-based fibers (such as Lyocell) used in textile production are very resource efficient. In comparison, cotton requires on average 130 times more water and polyester emits on average 170 times more greenhouse gasses.
6) Using wood for construction saves about 40 percent of carbon emissions in comparison to concrete, and about 30 percent in comparison to steel. Overall, global carbon dioxide emissions in the construction sector could be reduced by up to 31 percent if builders used wood instead of steel and concrete.
7) More than 25 percent of the medicines we use originate in rainforest plants. Yet only 1 percent of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal properties.
8) More than one third of our biggest cities, including New York, Bogota, Tokyo and Barcelona, get a significant proportion of their high-quality drinking water from protected forests.
9) The tallest tree in the world is called Hyperion. It’s a coast redwood from California that is an incredible 115.61 metres tall. The largest tree in the world by volume is a giant sequoia called General Sherman which has a trunk 10 metres round and contains an estimated 1486 cubic metres of wood.
10) A large oak tree can transpire 151,000 litres of water in a year. On average, 40 percent of rainfall over land originates from evapotranspiration from plants. In some areas the amount is even higher. For example, more than 70 percent of rainfall in the Rio de la Plata river basin originates from evapotranspiration from the Amazon forest.
Links to activities and campaigns:
International Day of Forests
Forest and Education – key messages
Forest Facts overview
VIDEO: International Day of Forests 2019: Forests and Education