Feb 2
Declared by the United Nations as the ‘International Year of Forests’, 2011 is dedicated to raising awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests. 

The International Year of Forests was officially launched today (2 February 2011) at the General Assembly Hall in New York. 

Following on from the success of the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, the years theme is ‘Forests for People’, in celebration of the central role that humans play in sustaining the forests that are so vital to their interests and survival. 

Photo of coast redwood forest

A coast redwood forest

Forests are of great importance to the global economy 

More than 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods in some way, with forest industries turning over US$200 billion annually. 

30 percent of the world’s forests – 1.2 billion hectares – are used primarily for the production of wood, including harvested timber, deadwood, bark, cork, fuel wood and charcoal, and non-wood products such as latex, honey, rubber, gum, nuts, berries and fruits.  In addition, around 1 billion people depend on medicines derived from forest plants. 

Photo of Okoume logged trees awaiting collection

Okoumé trees, a valuable source of commercial timber from Gabon, awaiting collection.

Photo of Ese'eja Indian opening a Brazil-nut fruit

Ese'eja Indian opening a Brazil-nut fruit. These are harvested for their valuable oil found in the seeds.

Forests  play essential roles in ecological processes  

Forests conserve soil and water, reduce the risk of flooding and erosion and are important in the control of avalanches, desertification and coastal protection. Forests are continually removing CO2 from the atmosphere, storing as much as 650 billion tonnes of carbon annually. 

Forests are also home to nearly 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. 

Photo of northern muriqui in Atlantic forest habitat

Northern muriqui in Atlantic forest habitat. Up to half of all known species may reside in tropical forests alone, as well as many species yet to be discovered.

However, according to a new report released by the IUCN, The Value of Investing in Locally-controlled Forestry’, the economic benefits of forests still remain massively under-valued by governments and agencies. 

Lucy Emerton, who worked on this latest IUCN report, says that governments are missing critical opportunities to invest in stimulating economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction.   

The report, launched today as part of the International Year of Forests official opening in New York, aims to show the global economic impact of forests if they are managed and controlled by the people who live in and around them. 

View the IUCN press release or read the full report 

Find out more about the International Year of Forests. 

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author