Sustainable Tropical Forestry
Author: Isha Pandey
A Short Drive in to the Woods:
Forests are life-saving and life-sustaining pieces of land which not only purify water and act as a habitat for animals but help in activities pertaining to the creation of places for recreation, act as working forests and homes. Parts of a whole, forest, and soil act as carbon sinks as they store atmospheric CO2 in wood due to photosynthesis. They also play a combating role in fighting climate change through 3S, Sequestration, Storage, and Substitution. Trees capture CO2 in the atmosphere and sequester in the form of carbon in living biomass and later in dead biomass, leaf beds, and soil, playing a very effective role in this way as a carbon pump. Then there are wood products derived from forests which store the carbon throughout their huge life. These bio products act as a substitute for energy-intensive materials and non-renewable energy. Forest cover is steadily declining. Forests account for a little over one-third (38%) of habitable land area. This shares of landmarks a significant change in the land percentage which belonged to forests.
Due to the expansion of agriculture and human activities, these forests today account for half of the global habitable land used for farming. Russia, which has the largest share of forest area is home to about one-fifth of the global forest area and Brazil is another country with more than 10% of global forest cover. But the grim reality is that forests in Russia are under consistent danger, between 2000 and 2013, 21 million hectares of total intact forest area were lost to segmentation through the human-caused fire, logging, and mining. Lungs of our planet, Amazon rainforest is a large area covered predominantly by dense and moist tropical forest in Brazil. But the current situation cannot get any worse as this year itself in Brazilian Amazon, another nine major fires broke out leading to an unsettling start to another fire season for the flora and fauna.
Tropical forests like the Amazon are depleting at such high speed that according to one of the estimates of MAAP (Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project), Amazon's standing rainforest burned last year in an area which is roughly the size of the country of Wales in the U.K. These forests are fundamental for the lives of flora and fauna. The forests contain over 30 million species of plants and animals which are two-third of the entire flora and half of the fauna of Earth's wildlife. Many indigenous people have been living in harmony with such forests and depending on them for food and shelter and any foreign intervention in their closed habitat results in relocation of these people to unfamiliar places which sometimes even leads to them being killed in the process. Tropical forests store water like a huge sponge and help in climate regulation. These forests draw water from the forest floor and release it back into the atmosphere in the form of mists and clouds. If this process stops taking place in our biosphere, droughts would become more common, potentially leading to worldwide drought and famine. One of the leading supports to the pharmacy, rainforest/tropical pharmacy constitutes more than 25% of modern medicines. Mankind has only learned how to appropriately make use of 1% of these amazing life-saving plants. These are a few things that tropical forests provide to mankind supplementing a liveable life. But as a result of consistent forest degradation in the form of forest land conversion to agriculture and fires, over the next 15 years, forest landscapes equalling an area more than the size of Texas could be lost to rampant deforestation according to a WWF report. These integrated systems are consistently being degraded and any further degradation of the forests will set off a series of changes that would affect life both locally and worldwide.
Preservation of tropical forests is vitally important. To stop deforestation one of the main steps to take is towards stopping the irresponsible expansion of agricultural operations and to ensure that agribusiness, governments, and others meet their commitments to help conserve the forests. The second step should be towards creating sustainable infrastructure, making sure that the value of forests is considered while making decisions about where to expand infrastructure. Creating and properly managing conservation areas should be the third step, sustainable bio energy should be promoted and at the last effective policy needs to be implemented to stop deforestation. WWF helps countries like Myanmar and Belize in assessing the value of natural resources and services forests provide. The intersection of communities, organizations, and governments is pertinent in forming and executing such policies.
Renewable resources, if treated like sources that could be converted into something, will end up becoming non-renewable resources imminently. Tropical Forests should be used diligently concerning a series of things they provide to us. Responsible forestry should be adopted, like if a tree is uprooted another one should be planted. Forests are the second biggest carbon sink after the world's oceans. Every year they sequester about 19% of carbon emissions worldwide and if deforestation continues at this rate it will end up resulting in some life-threatening changes. To stop this, sustainable forestry should be adopted as it acts as a balance and mimics the natural pattern of disturbances and regeneration. It balances the need of the environment, wildlife, and communities while saving forests for future generations.
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