Forests 2011 logo

Forests support life

The tree trunk supports the rest of the logo – emphasizing that trees are the distinguishing feature of the forest ecosystem and are the basis for many of the pivotal functions that forests fulfil. Indeed forests and their services represent an essential basis for the livelihood of more than a billion and a half people around the world. In many regions, forests are a key basis for sustainable development.

The trunk also represents wood, the most environmentally friendly raw material, so relevant for a greener and more sustainable economy. Wood is equally important as a source of energy: In many developing countries wood is the main source of fuel for cooking and heating, and in industrialized countries wood is increasingly used as a clean and renewable source of energy. About 60 percent of the wood removed from forests and trees outside forests is used for energy.


The vast biodiversity of the forests is a natural habitat – for migratory birds, for example – which must be safeguarded. Until recent decades, the main strategy for conserving forest biodiversity was strict protection: keeping people out of the forest. There will always be cases where strict protection is necessary, but allowing local people to use the forest can also help motivate them to conserve forest resources.  

Diversity of the world’s forests

The world’s forests are highly diverse, ranging from boreal coniferous forests to mixed temperate forests to tropical rain forests to dry savannah forests. With some 1.4 billion hectares, the boreal coniferous forests of the Northern Hemisphere and high mountain areas are the forest complex that cover the greatest area. They frequently consist of very few tree species (e.g. firs, pines, spruces and larches) but are inhabited by a large number of animal and plant species.

The Amazon forest is the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rain forest in the world, representing over half of the planet’s remaining rain forests. The second largest bloc of rain forest is in the Congo Basin.


Forests are major habitats for wildlife. Forest wildlife provides both products (e.g. honey, wild meat, edible insects, traditional medicines) and ecosystem services (e.g. pollination, seed dispersal). All kinds of species, large and small, terrestrial, aquatic and avian, are harvested for bushmeat. High-value commodities from wildlife include ivory, rhinoceros horn and tiger bone. Many types of wild forest animals are captured and traded as pets. Forest wildlife also provides a basis for commercial and/or recreational activities such as hunting, photography and birdwatching.

The greatest threat to forest wildlife, especially in developing countries, is unsustainable, unregulated and often illegal hunting and trapping for commercial trade. Conflict between humans and wildlife (e.g. elephants raiding crops, lions killing livestock, baboons stealing food, birds damaging crops, crocodiles attacking villagers while they collect water) is also an area of growing concern and attention, especially in Africa, where it has serious implications for food security.

Human health

Forests contribute to human health in many ways. Many forest plants (leaves, bark, seeds and roots) have medicinal properties. Medicinally active ingredients from the forest are not only important to the health of forest-dwelling people; traditional knowledge about their use is often the basis for modern pharmaceutical products used the world over. Forests are also a source of natural and nutritious foods. Walking and exercising in the forest provides mental and physical health benefits, especially for people who live in cities and have little daily contact with nature. Studies have shown that activities in woodland settings can improve mood – depression, anger, tension, confusion and fatigue. These effects may be due not only to physical exercise and breathing fresh air, but also to the aromatic oils released into the air by forest trees (especially conifers).


In terms of biodiversity, forests are the richest of terrestrial ecosystems, containing more than 90 percent of the world’s terrestrial species. Tropical forests alone contain some 50 percent of all known vertebrates, 60 percent of plant species and the vast majority of insect species. The immense biodiversity of the forests is a treasure for humankind and all life; it is the basis for many products and environmental services provided by the forests and is thus also of great economic importance.

Although different ecosystems have different levels of diversity, the discrepancy often has natural causes; changes in biodiversity occur through time in all communities and ecosystems. Sound planning can ensure that uses of forest biodiversity are compatible with conservation.

Provider of food security

Forests support food security in many ways. Many millions of people depend on foods from the forest – fruits, seeds and nuts, leaves, roots and tubers, mushrooms, honey, wild game, insects and fish – for subsistence and income. Furthermore, forests provide fodder and browse for livestock and fuel for cooking and processing food. Forest resources support livelihoods and help reduce the vulnerability of poor households; they serve as a safety net in lean times when food supplies are most vulnerable. Trees on farms and in agricultural landscapes help stabilize, sustain and restore agricultural production; they promote food security indirectly by regulating water supply and climate and by buffering crops against wind and storms.


Forests are of major importance for the climate, at both the local and global levels. They provide shade and a cooling effect in warm regions and mitigate climatic extremes. They clean the air of impurities and dust and have an important function in the water cycle. Finally, forests contribute to mitigating global climate change by serving as an important carbon sink. Forest ecosystems (including biomass, dead wood and soil) contain at least as much carbon as the Earth’s atmosphere. We can help mitigate climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and by conserving and enhancing forest carbon stocks through sustainable management of existing forests and through afforestation and forest restoration.

Climate change will also affect forests. Altered temperature and rainfall, for example, can influence forest resilience, productivity and species ranges. Trees under stress are also more susceptible to harmful insect pests and diseases. It is important to manage forests and woodlands to cope, and help people cope, with changes in climate. When forests are planted, species will have to be chosen carefully, particularly where timber production is important. Good forest and tree management can also help vulnerable people adapt to the consequences of climate change.


Wood products

Sustainably produced wood is a permanently available, renewable raw material with a wide range of uses and excellent ecological and economic benefits. It is used not only to construct human dwellings, but for many everyday objects such as furniture, flooring, panelling and boat building, paper and paper products. The use of sustainably produced wood is environmentally sound and carbon neutral, since wood and wood-based products are effective and often long-term carbon sinks; the carbon contained in the wood is stored for the life of the product. Thus the use of wood can help limit the greenhouse effect and climate change caused by humans.

Other forest products used in creating and furnishing human habitat include bamboo, rattan and wicker. Leaves are also used in products such as roofing and handicrafts.


Forested watersheds are the reservoirs of the world. Forests have an essential role in stabilizing water supply and ensuring its purity. They protect the soil from erosion and stabilize drainage. They filter sediments and pollutants, influencing water flows and quality. Forests play a central role in local water cycles, absorbing water, storing it and mediating its evaporation. In addition, in many forest regions rivers are vital (and sometimes the only) transport and access routes for local people and products.

Humans at the centre

We humans may consider ourselves to be at the centre of creation, yet we are also an inextricable part of nature. The varied icons surrounding the human symbol reflect the close link between humans and forests and the many ways people use and benefit from forests. As we use the forests, we also have a duty to conserve them. And for many civilizations, trees and forests are central to cultural and spiritual life, which is what makes us uniquely human.

The logo for the International Year of Forests 2011 is designed to convey the theme of “Forests for People”, celebrating the central role of people in the sustainable management and conservation of the world’s forests. In its parts and in its whole, the logo illustrates how the manifold functions of forests have significance for nearly all areas of our life.

Forests surround us, help us, feed us, protect us, teach us and entertain us – even if we take them for granted and never think about them. The logo conveys the message that in all regions, climatic zones and cultures, and in both developed and developing nations, forests are inextricably linked with people, the environment and our quality of life. They are vital to the survival and well-being of people everywhere, all 7 billion of us.

The tree, as the central form, represents the forests of this Earth in all their variety and diversity: ranging from boreal coniferous forests to deciduous forests in temperate zones and from the dry savannah forests of the subtropics to the impenetrable jungle of tropical rain forests.

The crown is the source of oxygen, worker of the magic of photosynthesis. In the logo, the many parts of the crown represent the multiple values of forests. Forests provide shelter for people and habitat for great plant and animal biodiversity; they protect soil and water and help maintain a stable climate. They provide us with the environmentally sound renewable resource of wood, fuel for energy and many non-wood products, including food, fodder, medicines, building materials and cosmetics. They provide jobs, recreation and the experience of nature; and they are part of our spiritual and cultural life, our myths and folktales. Each of these values is interlinked with the others.

Taking it further, the logo represents our planet and all creation – a coherent whole with different parts that interact in many different ways. Humans are an inextricable part of creation, and have a duty to preserve it.

last updated:  Thursday, October 27, 2011