Around a quarter of the earth’s surface is covered by forests, sheltering a wealth of biodiversity. After all, there is more to a forest than just the trees. It is an ecosystem, a society in itself, with an enormous variety of plants, wildlife and other organisms (moss, mushrooms, bacteria), all of which influence the landscape, the water balance and the climate.
Forests have a large ecological and economic value: not just because of the wood they produce, but also through their function as an ecosystem. Forests provide mankind with important and indeed essential goods and services. In that sense they protect biodiversity while meeting the needs of future generations.
According to the World Bank, over one billion people rely heavily on forests for their livelihoods. Over two billion people, a third of the world’s population, use biomass fuels, mainly firewood, to cook and to heat their homes, and billions rely on traditional medicines harvested from the forests. In some 60 developing countries, hunting and fishing on forested land supplies more than a fifth of protein requirements (World Bank 2004).
Unfortunately, forests in large parts of the world are threatened by illegal logging, among other things. Fortunately, there is more and more sustainable forest management both at national level and at European and international level (policy to fight illegal logging, to support timber-producing countries and to stimulate the production of sustainable wood). The authorities play an important role here. Since several years there is (international) attention for the role of forests in the fight against climate change.