Why Forests Matter
Forests are crucial for the regulation of regional and global climate. Trees and shrubs absorb carbon dioxide, the most significant greenhouse gas driving global climate change, and store it in their trunks, roots, leaves and the soil itself. When trees are cut or forests are cleared, they not only stop absorbing CO2, but they also release much of their stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Currently, deforestation accounts for about 12% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions—a massive and avoidable contribution to rapidly accelerating climate change.
Forests also harbor much of the planet’s biodiversity, and tropical rainforests are particularly rich, containing roughly half of the Earth’s plant and animal species. Some of the most iconic and endangered wildlife species depend on extensive areas of intact forest for food and shelter, including species of tigers, orangutans, elephants and numerous other plants and animals. Currently about 13 million hectares of tropical forest are cut down each year—an area the size of England. If current rates of deforestation are not reversed, these amazing species will disappear forever.
Threats to Forests
Deforestation occurs for a number of reasons, including growing crops, raising cattle and harvesting timber. But logging does not have to lead to deforestation or forest degradation; responsible forest management can preserve water quality, soil health, biological diversity and overall ecosystem functions. Unfortunately, irresponsible and even illegal logging remains common in many parts of the world.
In North America, the native forests of “wood basket” regions like the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast of the US have been extensively altered by the forest industry. Throughout these regions, much of what was once natural forest has been clear-cut and converted to tree farms.
Another important factor in forest loss is illegal logging. In the Russian Far East, for example, between 50 and 70 percent of the total harvest of local species of oak and ash is estimated to be illegal. In fact, illegal logging is estimated to account for 8 to 10% of global production and trade in wood products, and in some countries the majority of the timber harvest is illegal.
The furnishings industry can play a crucial part in the sustainable future of forests through its sourcing preferences for wood-based products.
Find out how to prioritize the protection of the world’s forests while advancing business goals below.