There is no time to waste the opportunities that forest offers us from an economic point of view, but also from an environmental and climate point of view, writes Jorge Cristino.
2022 is the international year of basic sciences for sustainable development and there is nothing better than enhancing essential and primary activities, in a direct relationship with nature, to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda.
For this same reason it is important to remember that this year we celebrated the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day, as it all began on April 10, 1872, 150 years ago, when his mentor, journalist and politician Julius Sterling Morton, encouraged the orderly planting of trees in the city of Nebraska, in the United States of America, promoting the “Arbor Day”.
50th Forest Day anniversary
The 50th anniversary of World Forest Day was also celebrated, celebrated for the first time in 1972, as well as the 30th anniversary of World Water Day, approved in 1992 by the United Nations, and next June we will celebrate 50 years of Stockholm Conference, the first global meeting focused on the need to resolve environmental issues that occurred after the economic impact of the period following the Second World War.
After all these decades and despite these initiatives, around 420 million hectares of forest have been destroyed in the world since 1990 for agricultural purposes.
In the last decade, the rate of deforestation was 10 million hectares/year. In Portugal, the loss of forest area was 3% in the last three decades (while the European Union increased its forest by 10%). Even so, 30% of the earth’s surface is covered by forests, a place of excellence as a carbon sink. In Portugal, the forest area occupies 3 million hectares, equivalent to a third of the country.
‘Lungs of the World’
Forests, together with seaweeds, are the “lungs of the world”, not only for their function of maintaining and renewing ecosystems, but also for their importance in strategic areas, such as the economy and the production of goods and food, as important nowadays, of scarcity of resources.
The advantages of a sustainable, diversified and multifunctional forest are well known, as are the benefits of the resulting resources, whether environmental, social and economic. In addition to an adequate integrated and multidisciplinary forest management, a policy capable of translating the concerns in terms of combating the loss of biodiversity, leveraging economic performance and reversing the desertification of the rural world, and, in some cases, guiding the adaptation to climate change, as well as the amplification of the carbon sink function, in this case as mitigation, and also for the entire ecosystem service provided to Humanity.
Dimensions of forest
We must therefore consider 5 main dimensions of the forest, depending on its essential services:
– The first dimension is climate, due to the global remedial role it plays, essential in the necessary balance of the earth system, considering the growing emissions of greenhouse gases;
– A second dimension is the heritage dimension, due to the wealth it represents for the planet at a global level, but also for states in particular, and therefore also needs to be seen as a Common Heritage of Humanity, which should be more valued and more protected. ;
– The third dimension is geobiological, considering the importance that the Forest represents for the soil, both in terms of its use and occupation, and in terms of the guarantee it provides in promoting biodiversity, and in preventing its degradation and erosion;
– The fourth dimension is located in the territorial aspect, or if we want to order, when we talk about the rural and urban dichotomy. Depending on the type of Forest, it is possible and desirable to have Forests that perform several uses. In urban areas, improving air quality, lowering the temperature of cities, reducing noise, promoting urban biodiversity, serving as buffer areas to prevent construction with the consequent waterproofing of soils and preventing floods and inundations, as well as improving health and people’s quality of life, as recently confirmed by the World Health Organization. In rural areas, promoting agrosilvoenvironmental services and the production of endogenous products, as well as optimizing agriculture and, above all, protecting these areas;
– The fifth and last dimension of the forest is the (bio)economic. Let us not have any illusions about the advantages that come from a multifunctional forest that can also be productive and provide the necessary income, especially considering the amount of products and by-products that are created from this area, while the ecosystem services useful for the compensation of anthropological activity.
Bearing in mind these five dimensions of the forest, there are two essential measures to implement.
The first is to promote a consistent and long-term campaign of (re)forestation, organized, integrated and financed, allowing the creation and expansion of a forest that is increasingly native throughout the country. This operation, where the registry is the unavoidable starting point, could be financed not only by the Environmental Fund, but also directly by entities that need or want to see their activity compensated for their emissions, thus creating a “carbon market” of environmental self-responsibility.
The second is the urgent quantification and valorization of the Forest as a Natural Heritage so that the owners can be financially compensated for the ecosystem services provided and not just for the product or resource itself. This measure, at the moment, in addition to being urgent, is the most evident in this conjuncture that we are going through with the climate crisis.
There is no time to waste the opportunities that the Forest offers us, either from an economic point of view, or from an environmental and climatic point of view. In fact, it is definitely urgent to implement a responsible and robust strategy for the profitability of the entire national, urban and rural forestry space, based on a holistic and (very) long-term vision, in which the whole of society can and should be actively involved.
Jorge Cristino, a member of the board of directors of EDM, is the author of “The mission of cities in combating climate change”.
This article was lifted here.