All hail the forests

“Every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football pitch is lost to logging or destructive practices”, Greenpeace states. And along with forests, Earth is losing biodiversity, carbon absorption and natural resources, while greenhouse effect and desertification are increasing.
So, are humans going into the right direction to stop this frightening trend?
Not at all, according to some researchers from the University of Guelph (Canada): in their opinion, forests (which now cover 30% of the land surface) will continue shrinking, covering just 22% of total land area in the next few years. A worrying scenario, if we consider countries like Paraguay, which has the highest rate of deforestation in the world: here, the government has allowed Brazilian companies to destroy the Chaco forests, where the indigenous Ayoreos have been living and protecting their homeland for thousand years.
Luckily, there are also good news: some nations have taken steps to help increase the amount of trees on Earth. In 1981, China created National Tree Planting Day Forest: as a result, forest coverage has now reached 16.55% of China's land mass, as against only 12% two decades ago, and 12th March is the Planting Holiday.
Even Brazil is reversing its rate of deforestation and increasing the number of hectares in protected areas in the Amazon basin. The Amazon Regional Protected Areas (ARPA) Program is also training local communities to ensure the preservation of natural resources and to prevent and extinguish forest fires. The outcome has been a 37% decrease in deforestation between 2004 and 2009.
Sao Felix, a small town in Bahia region, is the symbol of this new approach: previously famous for its severe deforestation, now it is engaged in an important fight against it and it is the city that most reduced deforestation starting from 2005.

Without any doubt, Canada is one of the best countries in managing its 400 million hectares of forests: they represent around 10% of the world forest coverage and companies destroying them have to rapidly arrange for regeneration. As a consequence, the deforestation rate is almost zero and Canada has 90% of the forests it used to have before colonization. 

If you’re wondering about Europe, you should know that forests cover 40% of the Old Continent and they represent a key resource for improving the quality of life and creating jobs. Last September, the EU Commission  published the new Forest Strategy responding to the new challenges facing forests and the forest sector. Stressing the need to adopt a holistic approach,  the Strategy "goes out of the forest", addressing aspects of the "value chain" (that is the way forest resources are used to generate goods and services) which strongly influence forest management. Moreover, it underlines that linked EU policies should be taken into account in national forest policies. 

For this reason, Italy is taking action for a forest restoration, since our trees are threatened by fires, waste disposal, abandon of agricultural land and unsustainable wood cutting. When a forest needs help, two approaches are possible: an active restoration, where man is directly involved in tree planting, and a passive restoration, based on the natural capacity of woods to automatically regenerate. 

In both cases, Prof. Mercurio, president of the Italian Society for the Forest Restoration (SIRF), says that this program can be the proper reaction to the current environmental challenges, such as the conservation of biodiversity and water resources and the fight against greenhouse effect and desertification. However, protecting forests has also a deep cultural meaning: it is a necessary action for our natural and social patrimony, whose worth can’t be really estimated.

Chiara Crognoletti