Forests support rural economies in many countries, providing jobs for populations with few alternative off-farm employment options, producing more than 5,000 types of wood-based products, and generating annually a gross value added of just over US$ 600 billion, about 1% of global GDP (in some countries that contribution is much higher, reaching for example 6% of GDP in Cameroon). Forest goods also represent an important “hidden harvest” for rural populations, keeping many out of extreme poverty. About 350 million people who live within or close to dense forests depend on them for their subsistence and income. Of those, about 60 million people (especially indigenous communities) are wholly dependent on forests. They are key custodians of the world’s remaining intact natural forests.
Forests are an important source of energy for many countries; 65% of the total primary energy supply in Africa comes from solid biomass such as firewood and charcoal. Wood-based fuel will continue to represent a principle source of energy in low-income countries and is increasingly viewed as a "green" alternative to fossil fuels in developed countries.
Forests generate essential services to sustain key sectors (agricultural, energy, water, mining, transport and urban sectors), by helping to maintain the fertility of the soil, protect watersheds, provide habitat for a variety of species, and reduce the risk of natural disasters, including floods and landslides.
One of forests’ most crucial services is their capacity to slow climate change by absorbing CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels through photosynthesis. At the same time, deforestation, forest degradation and land use change contribute about 12% of the world’s greenhouse gases, eroding a critical carbon sink. Many of the world’s remaining forests are under increasing threat due to agriculture expansion, timber extraction, fuelwood collection and other activities. Although the pace of global deforestation has slowed since the 1990s, it remains high with about 13 million hectares (gross) lost each year. This is partially offset by reforestation, making the total annual net forest cover loss 5.6 million hectares—an area larger than Costa Rica.
Some 2 billion hectares of lost or degraded forests and landscapes could be restored and rehabilitated to functional and productive ecosystems. This would help generate economic opportunities in rural areas, deliver improved rural livelihoods and food security, greater climate resilience and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while taking pressure off pristine forests.
Last Updated: Apr 07,2016