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The International Day of Forests on 21 March is an annual celebration of the world’s incredible forests. To mark the day, we’re highlighting 10 key facts about forests and why we need to protect them.

WWF is working with other organisations in the UK to remind the Government and Parliament of all the reasons they need to help protect forests and the people and wildlife that depend on them. You can find out more about that coalition here. On International Forests Day the House of Lords will discuss this very issue: how the UK can continue to support forests as our role in the world evolves.

1. People depend on forests

It’s not just wildlife that needs forests, people need them too. Around 300 million people live in forests with more than a billion people depending on them for their livelihoods. Across the globe people rely on forests for shelter, water, fuel, food and traditional medicine.

2. Forests are an important home for wildlife

Forests are home to around 80% of the world’s terrestrial species. From tigers and jaguars, to mountain gorillas and orang-utans, some of the world’s most iconic animals rely on forest habitats. Forests are complex ecosystems made up of plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. We’re still discovering new forest-dwelling species every year!

3. We are losing forests at an alarming rate

The world’s forests are rapidly being wiped out: an area the size of a football pitch is lost every 2 seconds. Growing demand for wood, paper and agricultural products (like beef and soy) has led to forests being damaged and destroyed. Some of the biggest threats to forests include the expansion of agricultural land, infrastructure, mining and illegal logging.

4. Forest destruction contributes to climate change

Forests are crucial in the fight against global warming, by absorbing carbon from the air. But if forests are burned, cleared, or even disturbed, that carbon is released as carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It’s estimated that 10% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the destruction of forests. To effectively tackle climate change we must end deforestation and restore forests across the world.

5. Illegal logging causes widespread damage

Illegal logging is a serious threat to forests. It’s been responsible for driving some wildlife towards extinction – and it deprives forest communities of vital resources and damages local livelihoods, costing an estimated £23 billion each year. Illegal logging threatens some of the world’s most famous and valuable forests, including rainforests in the Amazon, Congo Basin and Indonesia.

6. Forest destruction disproportionately affects women

Across the world, women have a great deal of knowledge about natural resource management, but their ability to access and use these resources is often limited by their weaker resource rights. In poorer parts of the world women continue to be very dependent on forest goods and services and are likely to be more impacted by forest destruction than men.

7. Investing in rainforests can help global stability

Four-fifths of major armed conflicts occurred in biodiversity hotspots, like rainforests, over the last 50 years. In areas with poor governance, illegal logging, land grabbing and the raiding of forest resources has often fuelled conflict. Investing in the protection of the world’s rainforests is an investment in global stability which can help people and wildlife. WWF-UK supports work on forests across the world from the Amazon rainforest, to forests in east Africa, the Himalayas, India and China.

8. The UK relies on world forests to supply our wood products

Did you know that around 82% of the UK’s timber comes from overseas trading? Products like furniture, musical instruments, flooring or textbooks may be made from timber grown all over the world. That means our decisions here in the UK have an important impact on the world’s forests. Many UK businesses have taken significant action to ensure that forests they depend on for wood and other products will be there in the long-term. Through our Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN), we’re encouraging businesses to commit to responsible, legal and sustainable sourcing of timber and paper supplies. Find out more about the GFTN.

9. Britain’s forests are wonderful

While there are many magnificent forests overseas, we also have wonderful woodlands on our doorstep in the UK. In the UK, woodlands cover around 30,000km², that’s the equivalent to 13% of our land area. We’re a nation of nature lovers and definitely enjoy exploring our local woodlands - did you know almost half a billion trips are made to UK forests every year?! Research has also found that forests have a positive effect on our wellbeing, find out more in a recent blog from Will Ashley-Cantello, our Chief Advisor on Forests.

10. People in the UK can act to protect forests around the world

Britain has played a leading role in the protection of the world’s forests. Funding from charities and the UK government has helped protect precious ecosystems and supported local community projects across the world. And action from British businesses to source sustainable timber and paper products has helped protect forests globally.

We all have a role to play in the protection of the world’s forests and you too can do your part. Here are a few simple actions you can take:

  • When you buy wood and paper products, make sure you look for the FSC tick tree logo, to ensure that you are buying products from well-managed forests
  • Using the hashtag #ForestsMatter tell your friends and family why it’s important to protect forests for wildlife, people and future generations!
  • If your company wants to show its commitment to forests and a fairer, more sustainable global timber trade, then please get in touch with our Global Forest & Trade Network team