Forests and environmental sustainability

Forests provide a number of functions that are vital for humanity. They support and nourishagriculture; they ensure environmental services such as the provision of freshwater, protection against flooding, soil conservation, habitats forbiodiversityand carbon sequestration to protect theatmospherethey protect coastal and marine resources and enhance urban environments.

Forests also contribute with economic value products such as: industrial wood, woodfuel and also non-wood forest products such as fibre, food and pharmaceuticals. The industrial forestry sector accounts for about three percent of global trade, while an estimated 12.9 million people are employed in the sector. However, forests' role goes beyond goods production because they play social functions by providing recreation areas, cultural and natural heritage sites.

While human demand for agricultural and forest products continues, there is now increased awareness that natural resources are not infinite and need to be wisely and sustainably managed for the survival of humankind. This is why meeting the economic and social Millennium Development goals, will depend on a healthy and sustainably managed natural environment.

In the last 40 years, scientific advancement and two important United Nations conferences held in Stockholm, in 1972, and in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to respectively deal with Human Environment, and with Environment and Development, raised global awareness on the importance of environmental sustainability and provided the nations of the world with the occasion to commit themselves in practicing sustainable forest management and sustainable development.

last updated:  Monday, February 28, 2005