Forests contribute to economic growth, employment, food security, energy generation and climate resilience. They provide vital resources and revenues to an estimated 1.3 billion people, nearly 20 percent of humanity and many of the extreme poor.
Forests support rural economies in many countries, providing jobs for populations with few alternative off-farm employment options. Forest industries contribute about 1% to global GDP, while in some regions and countries, it is much higher (e.g. in Sub-Saharan Africa it is up to 6%). While formal employment in the forest sector represents about 18 million jobs worldwide, it is estimated that there are at least ten times more in the informal sector.
Forests also represent an important safety net for rural populations in times of economic or agricultural stress. 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.
Forests also absorb about one-third of the CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels each year. At the same time, deforestation and forest degradation contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions, and 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 GHG mitigation while taking pressure off pristine forests.
Last Updated: Apr 02,2015