FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

10 facts to help you fall in love with forests

The United Nations proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012 to celebrate the importance of forests of all types. Each year, events scattered around the world celebrate the contribution of trees to our lives. Under the motto “Learn to Love Forests!” the focus for 2019 is on the role of education in achieving sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation.

Explore these 10 reasons we love forests, and get engaged in a local campaign!

01 Forests are home to over 80 percent of land animals and plants and cover 31 percent of the world’s total land area. About 1.6 billion people around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and daily subsistence needs.

02 A tree can sequester up to 150 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year. The world’s forests store an estimated 296 gigatonnes of carbon in both above- and below-ground biomass. Just imagine: Europe’s 400 billion trees currently absorb almost 9 percent of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions!

03 Trees are important for creating sustainable cities. In urban areas, they can cool the air by up to 8 °C, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 percent. Urban trees are also excellent air filters, removing harmful pollutants and fine particulates.

04 Wood fuel provides 40 percent of today’s global renewable energy supply, as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined. Greater investment in technological innovation and sustainably managed forests is key to increasing forests’ role as a source of renewable energy.

05 Forest products contribute to reducing and replacing polluting and carbon-intensive materials. Certified wood-based fibres (such as Lyocell) used in textile production are resource efficient. In comparison, cotton requires 130 times more water, on average, and polyester emits an average of 170 times more greenhouse gases.

06 Using wood for construction saves about 40 percent of carbon emissions in comparison to concrete, and about 30 percent in comparison to steel. Overall, global carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by up to 31 percent if builders used wood instead of steel and concrete.

07 More than 25 percent of the medicines we use originate in rainforest plants. Yet only 1 percent of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal properties.

08 More than one-third of our biggest cities, including Barcelona, Bogota, New York and Tokyo, get a significant proportion of their high-quality drinking water from protected forests.

09 The tallest tree in the world is called Hyperion. It’s a coast redwood in California that is an incredible 115.61 metres tall. The largest tree in the world by volume is a giant sequoia called General Sherman, also in California, which has a trunk 10 metres around and contains an estimated 1 486 cubic metres of wood.

10 A large oak tree can transpire 151 000 litres of water in a year. On average, 40 percent of the rain that falls over land originates from evapotranspiration from plants. In some areas, the amount is even higher. For example, more than 70 percent of the rainfall in the Rio de la Plata river basin in South America originates from evapotranspiration from the Amazon forest.

Source: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

20 March 2019, Budapest, Hungary