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Forest Biodiversity

Why is this important?

Forests contain an immense variety of life forms, which provide many vital services to human beings. They play significant economic, social, and cultural roles in the lives of about 1.6 billion people, especially those of indigenous and local communities. These benefits are under great pressure as humans are destroying forest biodiversity at an alarming rate. Each year 13 million hectares of forest are converted to other uses or lost through natural causes.

Forests offer much more than just timber. Along with food, fibre and other natural products, they provide the plants that are the basis of many traditional medicines and Western pharmaceuticals. They help to limit climate change by preventing vast amounts of carbon from reaching the atmosphere. Forests also regulate local temperatures, protect drinking water supplies and alleviate land degradation and desertification.

Over two thirds of all known terrestrial species live in forests. This great diversity of trees, plants, animals, fungi and micro-organisms, and the complex interactions among them, are what makes forests so valuable to humanity. Yet many human activities greatly weaken forests and reduce the services they provide to us. They include: the conversion of forests to agricultural land, overgrazing, unsustainable management, introduction of invasive alien species, infrastructure development, mining and oil exploitation, man-made fires, pollution and climate change.

Biodiversity plays an important role for effective and long-term carbon storage in forests. Therefore, it is crucial that biodiversity be appropriately considered in the forthcoming efforts for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD-plus) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The potential to simultaneously address th biodiversity crisis and climate change is unprecedented. At the same time, poorly designed REDD-plus efforts could damage forest biodiversity and in the process threaten the continued provision of ecosystem services for human well-being.

Source: Convention on Biological Diversity

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