Nature and Biodiversity

7 secrets forests have been keeping from you

The autumn sun shines through a pine forest in Andernos near Bordeaux, southwestern France, September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (FRANCE  - Tags: ENVIRONMENT)

Forests and trees should get some recognition too. Image: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Nature and Biodiversity?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Future of the Environment is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of the Environment

Where would you find the world’s largest recreation center and the most natural supermarket? Forests wouldn’t have been your first answer, would it?

That’s the thing about forests. They keep secrets.

For too long we have seen trees as purely functional or ornamental, objects in the backdrop or on the sideline. They decorate city streets. They give us shady spots for resting and relief from the sun. They provide us with paper and fuel, fruit and nuts. These benefits are fairly obvious.

However, some of their other benefits are almost invisible to the naked eye. Forests are quietly working in the background, secretly cleaning our water, filtering our air and protecting us from climate change. They are guardian angels for more than a billion people, providing food, medicine and fuel to those who might not have access to these resources from anywhere else. They house more than three-quarters of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and are homes to many of the world’s poorest people.

Forests play a key role in our lives that we don’t even recognize. Here are 7 ways how and some of their best kept secrets:

Image: Center for Global Development

1. Supermarkets – More than the occasional apple or orange that we pluck from a tree, forests are veritable food markets. Almost 50 percent of the fruit we eat comes from trees, not to mention the nuts and spices that we also get from these food baskets.

2. Life insurance - Some communities rely almost exclusively on forests for their food sources. Around 40 percent of the extreme rural poor – around 250 million people – live in forest and savannah areas. For these communities, vibrant forests and trees are their lifeline and insurance against hunger.

3. Water Fountain - Forests provide a large part of the drinking water for over 1/3 of the world's largest cities including New York and Mumbai. Many rivers and streams have their sources in forests. Trees act as filters and provide us with the clean water that is vital for life.

4. Energy - Around one-third of the world’s population use wood as their source of energy for necessities such as cooking, boiling water and heating. Wood from forests supply about 40 percent of global renewable energy – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined. Trees grow back, but we need to place more emphasis on using these resources sustainably to protect our forests from degradation.

5. Superhero - Forests and trees may look inconspicuous like Clark Kent, but they are like Superman in many ways. They are our heroes in the fight against climate change. They make our cities more sustainable by naturally cooling the air and removing pollutants. They safeguard our health by giving us places to retreat to and relax in. They tackle land degradation and stand up against biodiversity loss by providing plant and animal life with habitats.

6. Carbon sinks - As a force for good, our forest superheroes act as carbon sinks, absorbing the equivalent of roughly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Like any superhero though, they have a flaw. Deforestation is their kryptonite. When trees are cut down, they release this carbon dioxide back into the air. Deforestation is, in fact, the second-leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels. It accounts for nearly 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than the world’s entire transport sector.

7. Recreation – Trees are stress relievers. Nature-based tourism is growing three times faster than the tourism industry as a whole and now accounts for approximately 20 percent of the global market. Studies even link green spaces and tree cover in cities to reduced levels of obesity and crime. As one example, the obesity rate of children living in areas with good access to green spaces is lower than in those who have limited or no access at all.

Have you read?

Forests have been our quiet helpers. They have been secretly playing a bigger role in our day-to-day lives than we realize. We cannot lead the healthy, productive lives that we would otherwise without them and we cannot hope to have a #ZeroHunger world without enlisting their help, the help of the governments, agencies and bodies that protect them and your help in respecting them.

Share these messages with friends and think about the part they play in your life. Forests and trees should get some recognition too. It is time to spill their secrets.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Why nature-positive cities can help transform the planet

Carlos Correa Escaf

May 24, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum