For this week’s blog we thought we would look at some happy news from the world of forests. Forests are a vital part of the biosphere, containing 80% of all the world’s plants (by mass) and thus playing a vital role in the fight against climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Not only that, they are also a great habitat for all sorts of wildlife and an important part of the economy, providing all manner of jobs through production of materials such as wood and paper and also through tourism. It’s because of the importance of forests that we have a whole section of classroom resources devoted to them.
People have been responsible for reducing the amount of forests in the world for a very long time, ever since we started to cut down trees for use as fuel and to clear space for growing crops (here’s a scientific paper all about the impact we were having over 3000 years ago!). This process is called deforestation. The rate of deforestation increased sharply in the 1850s and continued apace through much of the 20th century. So where is that good news I mentioned at the start of this blog? Well, although deforestation is still happening, worldwide the rate of deforestation has been slowing down and in some places such as Europe the amount of forest is increasing every year. This increase in Europe is due to two processes: reforestation is the process of adding new trees to existing woodlands and afforestation is the process of making new woodlands. In the UK, there is a target to increase forests from 10% of our land up to 12% of our land by 2060, encouraged by programmes like the Woodland Carbon Code.
Much of the afforestation in the UK is being carried out by charities, schools and community projects, meaning that you can get involved! The Woodland Trust offers free packs of trees to school and community groups so it doesn’t have to cost much to make a difference, and there are plenty of well-established community groups out there for individuals to join. One great example is Andover Trees United who are planting 10,000 trees to make a new woodland called Harmony Wood. Andover Trees United are partnered with Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots (read about their exploits over the years here) and we’re delighted to see that this year their hard work with local schools has seen them win the Ecover Young Green Champions prize at the Observer Ethical Awards 2015. Theirs is an inspiring story and it would be great to see more Roots & Shoots members following their example and planting trees all over the UK!