What do forests do for us and how do we protect them?
In years gone by Britain was covered in trees but we are now the second least forested country in Europe with only 12 per cent cover*.
International Day of Forests on March 21 provides us with the opportunity to look at what we have lost and what we can do about deforestation at home and overseas.
What benefits do forests bring?
Forests provide us with significant benefits which do not cost anything. For example:
Trees stabilise land affected by landslips, avalanches and mud slides. If these events do occur, trees slow down and reduce the speed and energy of the moving material. In a similar way, coastal forests such as mangroves protect coastal inhabitants, infrastructure and land against storm surges.
Trees catch and hold water and slow down its progress into rivers, reducing the risk of floods. They protect watersheds that are critical for the supply of clean water to most of humanity.
Forests are home to more than 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, much of which has not yet been fully investigated.
Trees capture carbon and are an important factor in keeping the climate stable.
Forests support the livelihoods of more than a billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide and provide paid employment for over 100 million people.
Forests can be a tourist destination and provide space for recreation of all types
In short, forests are crucial for the quality of our water, air, soils, biodiversity and other resources.
They are also good for us – looking at green plants can reduce stress and is good for mental health. Studies even show that people in hospital recover quicker if they look out onto green space rather than a car park.
How can we protect forests?
At Interserve – where possible – we source certified forest products and engage with our supply chain to influence their practices to ensure we are not part of the continuing deforestation of the world.
This covers more than just timber and paper. There are a remarkable number of products which are potentially grown on deforested lands, such as beef and leather, soya beans and palm nuts used for palm oil. Where possible, Interserve uses sustainably sourced products and our company guidelines list the standards, which we believe are the most rigorous, independent and reliable. Timber standards are now well developed, while the schemes covering other products are less mature, but Interserve always looks to support credible new standards and guidelines that are developed.
Enjoy your local forest!
If you want to get involved, this link helps you find local woodland. Why not enjoy the health benefits of nature this weekend and see them in all their glory – they are all free to visit: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/map/
* Source: Statistics come from the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 of the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).