Trees are a vital part of our planet’s ecosystem. We all rely on trees and their products: oxygen, fruits, wood, water, medicines and soil nutrients to name a few. They not only give life, but they also improve livelihoods. We often take trees for granted but can you imagine what the world would look like without them? Here are some of the reasons why ITF works to plant, protect and promote understanding of the vital role of trees for all life on Earth.

Trees help break the cycle of poverty and deforestation

The World Bank estimates that forests contribute to the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people and that 60 million are totally dependent on forests.

This dependency often leads to unsustainable forest management in order to meet demand for timber and other forest products from rich countries. This can lock individuals and communities into a cycle of deforestation and poverty. As deforested land becomes nutrient-poor and unable to support agriculture, more land has be cleared.

Agroforestry – farming using trees and forests – helps to break the cycle of poverty and deforestation by meeting the need for timber and fuel wood, fruits and forest products through sustainable planting and management of trees and forests. It also sustains forest ecosystems and provides habitats for wildlife, encouraging the return of endangered species.

Did you know? Forests support the livelihoods of around 1 in 6 people

Trees help mitigate human impact on climate change

Deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels have caused an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that has caused the Earth’s temperature to rise. Scientists believe that this has led to more extreme and damaging weather as well as the melting of polar ice caps at a greater rate than ever recorded before. This human-made change in climate has implications for Arctic livelihoods, wildlife and for sea level, with significant consequences for low-lying land and islands and the people that live there.

Because trees absorb and store CO2 away from the atmosphere, forests form “carbon sinks” trapping tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and protecting us from human-made climate change. One of the reasons that ITF believes in the vital role of trees is that trees have the power to mitigate human-made global warming and protect the atmosphere.

Simply put, the more trees we plant, and the more we slow down and reverse deforestation, the greater the Earth’s ability to lock carbon out of the atmosphere and slow global warming.

Trees provide essential habitats for diverse wildlife

Forests and trees provide vital habitats for the majority of the world’s plant and animal species. Rainforests – just one type of forest – cover less than 2% of the Earth’s total surface area and yet are home to 50% of the Earth’s plants and animals. Deforestation is threatening the habitats of the millions of species that rely on forests to survive.

The density of biodiversity in tropical forests acts as a gene reservoir, and as logging and agriculture divides large areas of forest into small sections, members of the same species become isolated from one another and lose access to larger gene pools, affecting their ability to adapt to change and maintain overall species health.

Therefore, ITF plants, promotes and protects trees and forests through sustainable community forestry projects and drylands projects in order to reduce deforestation, prevent extinction of species and promote biodiversity. These projects both protect the environment and the communities that they work with.

Did you know? A typical four-square-mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies.

Forests are a largely untapped medical resource

As well as providing animals with vital habitats, forests hold a huge number of plant species, many of which are unknown or not thoroughly studied. Forests are therefore a huge resource in terms of medicine and botanical knowledge.

We get many of the medicines we use today from plant extracts and the loss of species of plant and trees means that potentially beneficial medicines not yet discovered and other beneficial properties of some plants may be lost irretrievably through deforestation. 1 in 4 ingredients in our medicine come from rainforest plants.

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