Today we celebrate International Forests Day and at the same time recognize how essential forests are for planetary health and human well-being.
Our forests filter our water, clean our air and provide a home to wildlife. They are crucial in the fight against climate change and they provide food, energy, jobs and income for billions of people worldwide.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora regulates international trade in more than 500 tree species to ensure their survival.
More than a third of all tree species are threatened. The main problems come from deforestation for building or to create extra agricultural land or logging for commercial purposes.
The CITES Tree Species Programme (CTSP) was set up to provide financial assistance to countries in conservation and management measures to ensure that their trade in timber, bark, extracts and other products from CITES-listed tree species is sustainable, legal and traceable. It works across Asia, Africa, Central and South America and the Caribbean. For example, it is working to protect a number of rosewood species. These trees are prized for their wood, which is beautiful and durable and is made into furniture and musical instruments. Due to their popularity, several of the rosewood species have been overharvested and a recent CTSP-funded study has prompted Viet Nam to stop all wild harvesting and exports of Siamese and Burmese Rosewoods. International trade in a species should never pose a threat to its survival. In Viet Nam the study showed that continued trade could pose just such a risk and so a moratorium on international trade has been put in place for at least the next five years.
The Lower Mekong Region is home to 100 CITES-listed tree species. Since February 2021 to date, the CITES Secretariat and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have been working on a project that has increased the region’s capacities on sustainability, legality and traceability of CITES Appendix-II timber species of rosewoods, yew and agarwood. The Secretariat is also coordinating research to improve knowledge on the biology and trade of valuable tree species such as rosewoods and frankincense, in support of decision making related to sustainable trade.
It is this kind of work, targeting overexploitation of tree species that is crucial to making sure that consumption and production is sustainable – the theme of this year’s International Forests Day. Managed properly, forests are a renewable resource and more than a billion people depend upon them either for their livelihoods or for the variety of products that can be produced from them.
International Days are designed to be a focus for attention but in this case they should also remind us that Forest conservation is a constant battle. We need to remember that they are essential for our survival and earth’s well-being. There are steps that each of us can take to help: plant or adopt trees, save water and energy, reduce, reuse and recycle and where possible, buy sustainable goods. There’s one more thing you can do too, go out and enjoy the forests you may have around you: walk, run, play, picnic and most of all appreciate them.