Forests provide support and sustenance for over 90 per cent of the extremely poor of the world population, a report indicated on Saturday.
The report also said forests provide more than 86 million ‘green jobs’ to people around the world who rely on them for food security and livelihoods.
The report was produced by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in partnership with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and technical input from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
According to the report, “those living in extreme poverty, over 90 per cent are dependent on forests for wild food, firewood or part of their livelihoods.”
Of these, eight million extremely poor, forest-dependent people live in Latin America alone, it said.
Forests continue to play an important role in biodiversity and climate change, although, the rate of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss worsens future pandemics like the coronavirus, scientists say.
The State of the World’s Forests 2020, highlights that since 1990, 420 million hectares of trees have been lost to agriculture and other land uses.
The COVID-19 crisis has thrown into sharp focus the link between peole’s health and that of the ecosystem, underscoring the importance of conserving and sustainably using nature.
“Deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contributes significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity,” the FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, and Executive Director of the UNEP), Inger Andersen, jointly said.
“Protecting the world’s biodiversity is entirely dependent on the way in which we interact with the world’s forests. And as they harbour most of our terrestrial biodiversity, safeguarding woodland holds the key,” the report said.
The report shows that forests contain 60,000 different tree species, 80 per cent of amphibian species, 75 per cent of bird species, and 68 per cent of the earth’s mammal species.
Conservation and sustainable use can work together to protect plants, animals and livelihoods, it added.
According to the report, a special study from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and the US Forest Service, found 34.8 million patches of forests in the world, ranging in size from one to 680 million hectares.
It said this illustrates that greater restoration efforts are urgently needed to reconnect forests that have fragmented over time.
As FAO and UNEP prepare to lead the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in 2021, both officials expressed their commitment to increased global cooperation in the race to restore degraded and damaged ecosystems, combat climate change and safeguard biodiversity.
Millions of people around the world depend on forests for their food security and livelihoods, they argued.
“To turn the tide on deforestation and the loss of biodiversity, we need transformational change in the way in which we produce and consume food,” Mr Dongyu said.
“We also need to conserve and manage forests and trees within an integrated landscape approach, and we need to repair the damage done through forest restoration efforts,” Ms. Andersen added.
The report notes that the target to conserve at least 17 per cent of the earth’s terrestrial areas by 2020 has been achieved.
It acknowledges that much still needs to be done despot the progress.
“One study conducted for this report shows that the largest increase in protected forest areas were in broadleaved evergreen forests, typically found in the tropics. Furthermore, over 30 per cent of all tropical rainforests, subtropical dry forests and temperate oceanic forests, are now located within protected areas,” it said.