A whisper from the woods

The Importance of Forests

Apr 25, 2022

An article by Francisca Gusmão & Tiago Jesus.

You might sometimes question why the Global Tree Initiative is so keen on planting trees and protecting forests.

It is a healthy question. Why trees and forests? Why not something else entirely?

Last month, on March 21, we celebrated the International Day of Forests. On that day, we shared with you a little bit about why forests matter. Let us delve a little deeper into that.

The Earth’s biosphere is of immense complexity. It is multi-layered; it is varied; it is wide. It is, furthermore, deeply interconnected.

Our planet Earth has evolved in such a way that has enabled life to happen. That is no simple task. Countless – often invisible to our eyes – processes must happen to ensure our existence in this world.

Forests play a significant role among other things, in keeping the planet’s nutrient cycle in balance. Natural forests, contrary to conventional agricultural fields and plantations, allow that cycle to feed itself by using nutrients from the soil and giving it back through dead leaves and animals. On the contrary, conventional agriculture breaks this cycle during the harvest. This often results in a barren land, where the soil has little nutrients and life left.

Healthy forests also keep the local (and global) temperatures low. It has been shown that urban forests, for instance, reduce the heat island effect*. This brings a more pleasant environment to cities. Furthermore, as our consultant, Mark Allaway, suggests in a previous article, urban forests can also filter the air and noise, improving the overall quality of life.

Most of us appreciate visiting forests and other natural sites. However, we often forget that forests are more than the greenery and bark. Most life lives underneath our feet.

Forests present a complex system of roots, rodents, insects, bacteria, and fungi which live in the soil. They communicate with one another, keeping the soil – and the forest – alive. This incredible biodiversity allows for the soil to remain rich and moist. This makes the entire ecosystem more resilient to change.

As Mark suggested in his article about the Miyawaki method, “a multi-layered approach to the structure of any forest is especially important.” A multi-layered and biodiverse forest has the characteristics we require to prevent further consequences from climate change.

Having said this, what do you think? We would love to hear your personal stories about the importance of protecting and restoring forests.


*The heat island effect is a phenomenon whereby big urban centres show significantly elevated temperatures when compared to the surrounding areas.

[mage courtesy of Sippakorn Yamkasikorn from Pexels]

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