Deforestation Kills More Than Trees
Forests are critical to the way Earth functions. They lock up vast amounts of carbon and release oxygen. They influence rainfall, filter fresh water and prevent flooding and soil erosion. They produce wild foods, fuelwood and medicines for the people that live in and around them. They are storehouses of potential future crop varieties and genetic materials with untapped healing qualities. Wood and other fibre grown in forests can be used as a renewable fuel or as raw material for paper, packaging, furniture or housing.
While the pressures on forests vary across regions, the biggest cause of deforestation is expanding agriculture – including commercial livestock and major crops such as palm oil and soy. Small-scale farmers also play a role, often due to poverty and insecure land tenure. Mining, hydroelectricity and other infrastructure projects are also major pressures – new roads can have a large indirect impact through opening up forests to settlers and agriculture.
Deforestation generates about 20 percent of greenhouse gasses, which contribute to global warming and climate change. Deforestation also cripples our planet’s ability to filter carbon dioxide from our air. Unfortunately, deforestation also threatens entire watersheds, endangered species and endangered cultures around the world.
If all CO2 emissions stopped today, climate change will still intensify because of existing carbon in the atmosphere. Energy conservation, renewable energy and sustainable agriculture are vital, but we need proven carbon capture strategies to help restore balance to our atmosphere. We need our forests more than ever.
Thousands of community stakeholders across East Africa are ready to act now. They can help us all fight global climate change, while defending critical ecosystems in Tanzania, Kenya and beyond.
Tanzania, for example, lost more than half of its elephants to poachers over the past decade. They could be wiped out entirely in just five or six years. Adding to the crisis, there has been loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity as a result of fragmentation and loss of critical ecosystem linkages and over-exploitation of the natural habitats. This loss of habitat brings humans and wildlife into more and more conflict over food, water and space–which means more bloodshed.
Scientists from around the world are calling for increased efforts to protect many of the Earth’s most endangered species immediately. In an open letter published July 27, 2016 in the journal BioScience, 43 wildlife researchers warn of a bleak future where elephants, gorillas and nearly a hundred lesser-known species could disappear from the planet without urgent intervention.
“Conservationists will soon be writing obituaries for species and subspecies as they vanish from the planet,” said the authors, from Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Society of London, Panthera and many others.
A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme says that protecting East Africa’s mountain ecosystems would safeguard the region’s $7 billion tourism industry, not to mention the lives of millions of people and iconic endangered species.
“Across the continent, the damage done to these ecosystems is depriving people of the basic building blocks of life,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment agency.
He said Mt. Kilimanjaro was an example of how climate change was severely damaging Africa’s mountains and the people who depend on them. Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest in Africa, contributes to more than a third of Tanzania’s revenue from tourism but is facing several problems, ranging from shrinking glacier to rampant wild fires. As climate change intensifies, it is essential that governments act swiftly to prevent more harm and more downward momentum. The report urges Tanzania to protect the mountain’s water catchment area by reforestation, investing in early warning systems and making climate adaptation a top priority.
NGOs across Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have 15 comprehensive projects planned and ready, including:
- Forest conservation and reforestation;
- Sustainable agriculture and aquaculture;
- Watershed restoration and protection;
- Solar power can replace wood stoves and improve productivity;
- Community education about wildlife and forest conservation;
- Anti-poaching patrols, habitat restoration and other wildlife conservation strategies;
- Ecotourism; and
- Jobs for men and women, which can help alleviate many economic, health and environmental issues.
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Sacred Seedlings is an international coalition of stakeholders who are collaborating to create a sustainable future for communities and wildlife. To learn more about sponsorship opportunities, or to suggest new conservation and reforestation projects anywhere in the world, please contact Gary Chandler, Founder and Executive Director, 602-999-7204 (USA) or email@example.com or @Gary_Chandler