The United Nations General Assembly declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. A special web site has been launched as a global platform to celebrate people’s action to sustainably manage the world’s forests. Forest for Monarchs is also part of the U.N.’s Billion Tree Campaign.
Forests cover 30 percent of the planet’s total land area. In 2005, the total forested area was less than 4 billion hectares, about two thirds of what it was before the dawn of agriculture, some 10,000 years ago. (1 hectare is equal to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres).
On a global average, more than one-third of all forests are primary forests, defined as forests where there are no clearly visible indications of human activity and where ecological processes are not significantly disturbed. Six million hectares of primary forest are lost every year due to deforestation and disturbance through logging and other human activities.
Only 20 per cent of the world’s forests remain in large intact areas. These forests consist of tropical rain forests, mangrove, coastal and swamp forests. Monsoon and deciduous forests flourish in the drier and more mountainous regions. Primary forests shelter diverse animal and plant species, and culturally diverse indigenous people, with deep connections to their habitat.
World population currently stands at 6.5 billion people, and projected to grow to 9 billion by 2042. The expansion of agricultural and industrial needs, population growth, poverty, landlessness and consumer demand are the major driving forces behind deforestation. Most deforestation is due to conversion of forests to agricultural land. Globally, the removal of wood for timber and fuel was about 3.1 billion cubic meters in 2005.
Desertification, in the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, is one of the world’s most alarming processes of environmental degradation. The issue is often obscured, however, by a common misperception: that it’s a natural problem of advancing deserts in faraway developing countries. In fact, Desertification is about land degradation: the loss of the land’s biological productivity, caused by human-induced factors and climate change. It affects one third of the earth’s surface and over a billion people. Moreover, it has potentially devastating consequences in terms of social and economic costs.
“The symbolism – and the substantive significance – of planting a tree has universal power in every culture and every society on Earth, and it is a way for individual men, women and children to participate in creating solutions for the environmental crisis.” Al Gore, Earth in the Balance