Forest diversity: Living ecosystem of the earth

::Silvanus Lamin::

Forest occupies 31% of total lands of the globe which is 4 billions hectare. Forests contain some of our planet’s most vibrant ecosystems, displaying a wondrous variety of birds, animals, and plants. Forests are the basis for more than 5,000 products, from aromatic oil distilled from leaves to herbal medicines, fuel, food, furniture and clothing; they prevent soil erosion and help to regulate the climate; they provide clean water; they inspire us in art, research and religion; and they are essential to the survival and well-being of people everywhere—all 7 billion of us.

Forest biodiversity sustains human well-being through a multitude of ecosystem services, such as water purification, provision of oxygen, and spiritual and cultural benefits. For many indigenous communities, forest biodiversity is fundamental to their culture and identity. Having realized the importance of forest, UN declared 2011 as international year of forest and the theme of international biodiversity was set as “Forest diversity” by the agency.

But in spite of that forest and ecosystem deterioration process is still on the tract. In the last 8000 years about 45% of the Earth’s original forest cover has disappeared, most of which was cleared during the past century. Deforestation is occurring at a rate of approximately 13 million hectares per year, an area about 50 times the size of Luxembourg or 180 times the size of Singapore (FAO, 2007). Emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation contribute 15% to annual global greenhouse gas emissions. Due to deforestation, the rate of biodiversity extinction in the world has increased. Thus it has been reported that 100 animal and plant species lose every day in tropical forests because of increased rate of deforestation. According to IUCN, 35% of mangrove forest, 40% tropical forest, 50% wetlands animals have been disappeared due to result of deforestation. On the other hand, according to the red data list of this organization (2009), among its documented 44,837 species, 38% is under the threat of extinction while 804 species have already got extinct.

Once forest was considered as the only source of timbers but today importance has been given on the multi dimensional uses and diverse elements of forest which contribute in economic, social and spiritual development of human being on the earth. More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods; forests are home to an estimated 300 million people around the world. 80% people in developing countries rely on traditional medicines, up to half of which originate from plants found mainly in tropical forests. In accordance with the above information, it could be said that forest and forest diversity play a vital role in providing employment and other services to human being. On the other hand, according to the scientific reports, ecosystem, species and genetic diversity has close link with human health. These elements of the forest provide nutrition, fresh water and ensure food security along with resistance towards susceptible and other forms of diseases and natural disasters.

However, transformation of hilly lands to agriculture, excessive resource collection from the forest, deforestation and forest degradation, unplanned infrastructure construction, promotion of aggressive exotic species of plants and animals, uncontrolled shifting cultivation, unsustainable forest management, population growth, urbanization etc. are the main reasons behind the loss of forest biodiversity on the earth. These human induced activities have created immense pressure on natural resources and on the climate. And climate change on the contrary, intensifies the problem related with the loss of natural resources and biodiversity.

Thus to protect and conserve forest biodiversity, sustainable forest management should be adopted which ensures the sustainable use of forest resources. If sustainable management of forest is adopted, the social, economic and cultural well-being of people could be ensured along with strength to combat the rapid climate change. If sustainable use of forest resources is ensured, 15% of greenhouse gas emission could be easily reduced. Thus to support this fact, initiative has been taken worldwide to reduce emission from deforestation and forest degradation which is widely called REDD.

According to the strategic plan of CBD, half of the rate of deforestation worldwide would be reduced in 2020 and where possible the rate would be transformed to zero percent. It also aimed to restore 15% of the lost forest and increase the amount of reserved forest to 17% of the total lands of the world. Thus to make the strategic plan of CBD a reality, including government NGOs, civil societies and national and international communities should come forward.

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