9 REASONS TO CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF FORESTS
Meaghan Weeden | March 12, 2021 | 5 min read
How to Celebrate International Day of Forests 2021? Plant a Tree!
Celebrated on March 21st, the International Day of Forests was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. Since then, millions of people around the globe have used it as an opportunity to celebrate all types of forests, recognize everything that trees and forests do for us, and take action to protect them. The International Day of Forests Theme 2021is “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being.”
From cleaning the air we breathe to filtering the water we drink, shading and sheltering us from harmful UV rays and the UHI (Urban Heat Island) effect, creating sustainable income, providing nutritious food, reducing stress, improving our health and sequestering carbon in their roots, trunks, and leaves, trees provide many benefits!
We’re especially excited about this year’s theme of forest restoration because we firmly believe that to truly celebrate forests requires taking action to protect them, too. Because forests are so much more than just a collection of trees.
Here are 9 International Day of Forests Facts to help you celebrate!
1. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
When you think jobs that depend on forests, the first things that come to mind are probably logging, carpentry, and woodworking. But healthy forests provide profound long-term economic value and from foresters to rangers, conservationists, sustainable agroforestry farmers, tour guides, nature photographers, herbalists, foragers, tree planters, and more, over 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods. And much like trees support entire ecosystems, the benefits of jobs in the forest sector ripple throughout communities.
2. Protecting against Extreme Weather
As climate change progresses and intensifies across the globe, once rare extreme weather events like floods, landslides, cyclones, droughts and forest fires become commonplace. With roots that dig deep into the soil and hold everything together, fire resistant bark that slows the spread of wildfires, leaves that gradually release water vapor, powerful root systems that buffer coastal communities against cyclones, and so much more, healthy forests are our best defense against natural disasters.
3. What the Doctor Ordered
Trees are nature’s great healers, but their powers don’t stop at improving the environment and biodiversity. From prolific Cat’s Claw vines found in the Amazon rainforest to Chaga mushrooms growing off of birch trees in the Russian tiaga, forests have provided medicine to indigenous and traditional cultures for centuries. And western medicine benefits, too: although only 1% of rainforest plants have been researched, around 25% of pharmaceutical medicines used today are derived from them. So protecting forests is as important to our health as it is to planetary health.
4. All the food you can eat
From cacao pods to apples, avocados, guava, bananas, coconuts, mushrooms, chestnuts, maple sap and more, forests provide delicious, nutritious food grown right in nature. These traditionally have been used to supplement staple diets, providing vitamins, minerals, and proteins that people may not be able to get elsewhere. And throughout history, they have played an important role in community resilience by helping us survive food shortages during floods, droughts, famines, conflicts, and other emergencies.
5. Home Sweet Home
80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, including many endangered and endemic species, lives in forests, and 50% live in tropical rainforests, where it’s common to find hundreds of species in a single hectare. But they’re home to more than just plants and animals — over 300 million people live directly in the world’s forests. And from rural areas to suburbs to cities, billions more depend on them for the ecosystem services they provide, like pure drinking water, clean air, and so much more.
6. Natural Air Conditioning
If you live in a city, this one’s for you: urban trees reduce the dangerous urban heat island effect, lowering temperatures by as much as 8°C, which is especially impactful in low-income areas where high temperatures can be especially harmful. And speaking of energy, they reduce the need for carbon emissions from heating and cooling by helping to regulate temperatures year round. In fact, well-placed trees can reduce air conditioning costs by 30% and heating costs by up to 50%.
7. Improving Mental Health
Studies show that when we spend even a short time in nature, we can experience increased vigor and decreased depression, anxiety, fatigue, and mental fog. And those that are lucky enough to live near evergreen forests benefit from the high concentrations of phytoncides—or, airborne essential oils—that they release. These “showers” are part of the tree’s own medicine and provide powerful stress relief and a natural immunity boost that can last for weeks. Simply put: forests help us stay happy, relaxed, and well.
8. Combating Climate Change
Because trees use carbon dioxide to build their trunks, branches, roots, and leaves, they are natural carbon absorbers and help to clean the air. In fact, one mature tree can absorb up to 48lbs per year! According to the U.S. Department of Energy's 2017 analysis via their now defunct Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, the average American emits around 16.2 metric tons of CO2 from fossil fuels each year. To offset that, they should plant around 8-10 trees per year. And of course, conserving existing forests is important for this, too.
9. They Just Make Life Better
Where forests grow undisturbed, life flourishes and the air is filled with sounds of life, and where they’ve disappeared, everything from the tiniest bee to the fiercest wolf is affected. We evolved with trees and have benefited from their food, medicine, shade, and shelter from the start. And from towering evergreens to birches swaying in the breeze, from intricate roots gripping deep into the soil to gnarled branches carving out a place in the sky, trees make our world a more beautiful, resilient, and safer place.
Plant a tree today to celebrate International Day of Forests! It's a great way to show your gratitude for all that they do for us, and to ensure that they will be around for future generations.