International Day of Forests 2020: Forests and Biodiversity

Meaghan O'Neill
16 March 2020

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The International Day of Forests was created by the United Nations General Assembly to spread the word about the importance of forests, the danger they face, and to create positive change.  This year's theme is Forests and Biodiversity, highlighting the immense variety of organisms found within woodlands, including the trees that make up the forests themselves.

Rainforests contain about half the world's number of animal species, some of which haven't even been discovered yet. Most of these are insects. One area of a rainforest in Peru has 1300 species of butterfly, all located within 17,000 square km. Temperate forests are also home to many animals, plants, and fungi, but with a smaller amount of variety per square kilometer. Regardless, forests of all kinds contain more species than other terrains. Trees provide shelter and food, and they help keep the soil fertile and stop it from eroding, creating a place where animals and other plants can thrive.

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Blue Morpho butterfly, photo by M W from Pixabay

Afromontane forest covers a small area of South African, mostly along the Drakensberg Range from Limpopo to the Western Cape, right through Nature's Valley. The forest is intolerant to fires, so it is limited in location, but it still contains a distinct variety of trees and wildlife. Great for hiking through the Yellowwoods to seek out brightly colored birds and other near-endemic species!

Some of the biggest threats to forests are deforestation of land for agriculture and cattle, harvesting timber, and causing forest fires. Orangutans face explicit danger from their homes being destroyed for palm oil, as do the sun bear and Sumatran tiger. Lemurs, a type of primate that lives only in Madagascar, are facing habitat destruction of their forests, and nearly every lemur species is under threat of extinction. Forests face incredible threats, but you can get involved in everyday ways.

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Ring-tailed lemur, photo by Pexels from Pixabay

How you can help:

Lessen or stop eating red meat.  Much of the Amazon's destruction comes from cattle ranching, some of which is illegal. Laws might not stop the trees from being cut down, but a decrease in demand means less land needed for fewer cattle.

Recycle paper products used around the house. Choose recycled paper towels at the store, or use a hand towel instead. Purchase recycled computer paper and notebooks, or paper from companies dedicated to replacing the trees they cut down.

Make sure the palm oil containing foods you buy are sustainably sourced. One way is by using the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Palm Oil app, which scans barcodes to show if the item contains sustainable palm oil and provides further information on the ingredient.

Use the search engine Ecosia, which plants trees based on how many searches you perform.  Make sure to disable your adblocker on the website domain.

Visit The Rainforest Site and click to preserve a small area of rainforest.  As with Ecosia, make sure your adblocker is disabled for this website for it to work.

Get outside and go for a woodland hike.  Listen to the birds and try to identify the different sounds they make.  Observe the bark on trees and the shapes of leaves, and see how many species you can recognize.  Look closely at the ground and find a variety of insects that call the woods their home.

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Photo by Kaboompics from Pexels