A “good news, bad news” story for planet earth

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Forests are an important part of the global ecosystem. Due to factors such as population and agricultural expansion, deforestation and illegal timber trade, the current forest protection is in a dire situation.

Many countries and international organizations actively participate in various projects, discuss and summarize experiences, strengthen cooperation and jointly promote forest protection.

The theme of the recently held International Forest Day 2021, sponsored by the United Nations, was “Forest Restoration: A Path to Recreation and Wellbeing”. Portuguese UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said forests are vital to the human well-being and health of the planet, but the current rate of their disappearance is shocking. He has therefore urged governments, organizations and individuals to urgently take action to restore and preserve forests in order to sow the seeds for a sustainable future.

Currently the Status quo global forest protection gives no cause for optimism. The annual forest loss worldwide amounts to ten million hectares, which corresponds to the size of the Icelandic land area. In its latest Global assessment of forest resources, The FAO has indicated that a total of 420 million hectares of forest have been destroyed worldwide since 1990.

Forms of destruction include deforestation, the destruction of forest land for agriculture or infrastructure expansion, etc. The data show that population and agricultural expansion remain the main drivers of deforestation, forest degradation and loss of forest biodiversity. According to the report, between 2000 and 2010, 40% of tropical forests were cleared through large-scale agricultural development and 33% through local subsistence farming.

Wood smuggling is also one of the main causes of forest degradation: in some countries the destruction of 90% of tropical forests is linked to this illegal activity. The extremely dry climate caused by climate change has led to frequent forest fires worldwide in recent years and triggered a number of major indirect disasters.

In October 2021, the EU’s Joint Research Center reported that 2019 was the worst year for forest fires in the world: in Europe alone, over 400,000 hectares of forest were destroyed and the nature reserves affected by fires also reached a new high.

The survival of forests is closely related to the sustainability of the earth’s ecology. The carbon emissions caused by forest reduction are estimated to account for 12 to 15% of global emissions. As the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and FAO emphasize in their above-mentioned report, “The rate of deforestation and forest degradation is still alarmingly high. This is one of the main reasons for the ongoing loss of biodiversity. “

The report said that in order to reverse the dire situation of deforestation and biodiversity loss, countries must make changes in food production and consumption, and protect and manage forests and trees as part of building integrated landscape ecosystems in order to manage them repair the damage already done.

Some countries and regions, especially those with abundant forest resources (such as Brazil), are actively taking measures to strengthen forest protection and sustainable development and achieve green economic transformation.

The Amazon is one of the “visiting cards” of Brazil. Its rainforest has a total area of ​​about 5.5 million square kilometers, of which over 60% in Brazil, the rest in Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, French Guiana, (formerly British) Guyana, Peru, Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) and Venezuela . The Amazon rainforest is the largest and most biodiverse rainforest in the world and accounts for 20% of the world’s forest area. It’s called the Lungs of the earth and green heart.

The oxygen produced by photosynthesis accounts for a third of the global oxygen. The carbon dioxide absorbed annually corresponds to a quarter of its total absorption from the soil. Therefore, the Amazon basin has a significant impact on the global climate and ecological environment.

To protect the rainforest, the Brazilian government has passed tough environmental protection laws to increase penalties for deforestation. The government implements a common and centralized national policy of rainforest management and deforestation rights and develops sustainable deforestation. All deforestation work in rainforest areas must be approved by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Logging information, including tree species, height, collection point, etc., must be entered into the management system for future traceability. In addition, Brazil has increased the monitoring of small-scale logging activities with the help of high-resolution satellite images, thereby significantly improving the efficiency of rainforest protection.

The Peruvian government, in turn, is cooperating with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the private sector and farming communities to take measures to reduce deforestation, support sustainable rainforest development and improve the ecology and living conditions of the people in the rainforest areas.

Over a hundred private protected areas have currently been established across Peru to promote the development of sustainable agriculture while supporting the biodiversity of the rainforest.

The government of Benin recently updated its forest policy and regulations, improved the forest tax system and vigorously developed forest resources. Benin has invested to achieve an annual increase of 15,000 hectares of planted forest and increased its timber production to 250,000 cubic meters per year, creating job opportunities and increasing its public income.

In Tanzania, in cooperation with the relevant international organizations, the government has not only formulated plans to protect the country’s forests and expand the forest reserves, but also developed ecotourism projects to offer the communities around the nature reserves employment opportunities.

The European Union has issued a number of policy papers in recent years, thus closely linking forest protection with measures for climate protection and the protection of biological diversity. In 2003 the EU formulated a special action plan to combat illegal logging and illegal trade.

In December 2019, it announced an action plan to promote global protection and restoration of forests and proposed priority guidelines for their protection, including new regulatory measures, increased international cooperation and support for innovation and research.

At the beginning of 2020, the EU set up a joint and centralized forest information system and plans to carry out future monitoring projects on nature and biodiversity, forests and climate change, forest health and ecological economy.

Thanks to a significant reduction in deforestation, large-scale afforestation and the natural growth of forest areas in some countries, the rate of forest loss has slowed significantly. Compared to the 16 million hectares of forest from 1990 to 2000, global forest and land loss has decreased from 2015 to 2020, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

In order to strengthen environmental protection, FAO and UNEP launched the United Nations Ecosystem Restoration Decade this year. Strengthening global cooperation and restoring degraded and damaged forests and other ecological resources have become an important focus of international relations.

The FAO stated that the aim of the multilateral treaty Aichi biodiversity goals (the Convention on Biological Diversity, which came into force on December 29, 1993) should protect at least 17% of the world’s land area through the forest reserve. This goal was achieved in 2020, but further efforts must be made by all parties to ensure this protection.

The international community is also actively considering collaborative projects to promote the global management of forest resources between countries. The FAO, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, UNEP and other international organizations worked together to develop the Amazon Integrated Protection Area Project, which involves nine countries and regions.

The project promotes effective and coordinated monitoring of the Amazon reserve and helps to reduce the effects of climate change on this ecological zone and to improve the resilience of the inhabitants to environmental change.

The African Union Development Agency (Auda-Nepad), the World Resources Institute, the World Bank and other institutions have jointly launched the African Forest Landscape Restoration Plan, which aims to restore 100 million hectares of forest in Africa by the end of 2030 Improving food security, improving the adaptability of countries to climate change and eradicating rural poverty: over 20 African governments as well as technical and financial partners are participating in the plan.

The lesson we must learn from this is that we must stop acting like the Brazilian governments did years ago. Because of their lack of environmental awareness, the Brazilian governments have been destroying forests and reclaiming fallow land in the Amazon since the 1970s, building road networks and vigorously expanding agriculture and breeding.

Illegal logging and forest fires, as well as dam construction and mine construction, have caused unprecedented damage to Amazon forests and protected areas.

In recent years, the area of ​​tropical rainforests has declined alarmingly. On average, a forest the size of a soccer field disappears every eight seconds.

There is still a long way to go before forest and humans live together more harmoniously.



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