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Trees Matter

Women cross a river on their way to work

Trees for biodiversity

Forests sustain much of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. From iconic animals like orangutans and tigers to critically important invertebrates, smaller plants and fungi, to the tree species themselves. In fact, one single tree species can be home to over 1,000 different types of beetle.

Trees for the climate

Trees absorb and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. When a tree is felled, the carbon it stores is released as carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change, and its ability to take in additional carbon is lost. Forest protection and restoration are essential to limit the global temperature rise to below 2oC, the maximum level deemed safe by the global community.

Forests can deliver as much as half of the reduced emissions and increased sequestration required in the next few decades to slow global warming – actions that are urgently needed while we wean our economies off fossil fuels.


Case Study: Sustainable landscape in Sierra Leone and Liberia

In the 300,000ha Gola Forest on the Sierra Leone-Liberia border, BirdLife Partners Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, Society for Conservation of Nature Liberia, and the RSPB are implementing a sustainable landscape approach. In addition to successfully advocating for creation of national parks on either side of the border, diverse conservation enterprise and sustainability initiatives are underway. Sierra Leone established the first VCS-validated REDD+ project in West Africa, and the first smallholder-grown, forest-friendly Gola cocoa was exported in 2017. Community management of adjoining forests in Liberia is being pursued along with several forest-friendly commodity options.

Trees for people

The global economy, and countless individual livelihoods, are reliant on trees for essential products, including timber, paper, fruit, coffee, chocolate, spices, rubber, medicines, resins and oils. As many as a billion people, including hundreds of millions of indigenous people, depend directly on the products and services tropical forests provide.

Trees for water and soil

Forests generate rainfall at scales from the local to the continental. Around three quarters of the world’s accessible freshwater comes from rivers in and around forests, which also transport the nutrients that underpin the fertility of farms and forests. Trees also hold soil in place and absorb rainwater, helping to limit flooding and landslides, and providing resilience against droughts. Forests on slopes can protect communities during extreme weather events, which will become more frequent due to climate change.

Case Study: Community forest enterprises in Tanzania

With local partner Mpingo Conservation & Development Initiative, WWF has supported communities across southern Tanzania to secure rights to own and manage their village forests. The forests have been certified as sustainably managed by the Forest Stewardship Council, and have sold timber commercially. As of 2016, 13 communities with a population of over 25,400 men and women, are managing 175,000ha of certified forest.  These communities have earned nearly $550,000 to date from this sustainable forest initiative, and new public and private investment to the area suggests the initiative will strengthen and grow.