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Ensuring a sustainable future for our forests



International Day of Forests takes place on the 21st of March every year. It was established in 2013 by the United Nations to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forest.


Wonder woods
Forests are a source of pleasure for anyone who ventures into them. Perhaps it is spotting a roe deer watching you from behind a tree, its big eyes filled with a mixture of curiosity and apprehension before it bounces off jinking through the forest. Maybe it is finding an old, gnarled birch tree festooned, Christmas tree-like, with all manner of lichen and mosses. Whatever takes you into the forests and woods, whether it’s work, pleasure, or study a lot is going on to help ensure that they are there to enjoy for many years to come.


Global issues
Every year the Collaborative Partnership on Forests chooses a different theme for International Day of Forests. This year it’s “Forests and Innovation”. Innovation is required to alleviate the increasing global pressures on forests across the planet from global warming and human encroachment.
Global warming affects forests through drought, fires, extreme weather events such as hurricanes, ice storms and windstorms, and the increasing occurrence of pests and diseases. As global temperatures rise, trees are found to be experiencing longer growing seasons, which may be considered a bonus as the tree grows faster taking in more carbon dioxide. However, studies have shown that this in fact, makes the trees weaker and the timber less dense, resulting in trees that break more easily in the more frequent storms.


Light in the fires
Increasing temperatures bring the ever-increasing risk of wildfires, as has been seen across the globe from Australia to Canada. Foresters are now looking at satellites and AI to help them predict where fires might occur. This is achieved by using different wavelengths of light both visible and infrared along with temperature and rainfall measurements to develop algorithms to warn about fire risk. A German company has also developed a system of fire detection in forests by using a network of small solar-powered sensors, which hang from the trees and measure temperature, humidity, and air pressure levels. Also, incorporating a chip with a gas sensor can issue a warning in less than an hour, even if it is only a smouldering fire.



Education and innovation
Human encroachment into forested land because of changing land use, usually to some type of agriculture, is increasing at alarming rates. This is evident all over the world, with more than half of the world’s tropical deforestation driven by four commodities: beef, soy, palm oil and wood products. Not all deforestation is done by large corporations: 30-40% is the result of small-scale farmers who are unable to provide their families with the modest food and income they need to survive. Many organisations are now working with these small-scale farmers to encourage them to farm using more innovative, sustainable methods. Much work has also been done to reduce illegal deforestation such as satellite tracking tree cover in real-time, the use of old phones and modern software to listen in to sounds of illegal felling and the use of scannable powder that can be used to determine the origins of logs - all innovative ways being used and developed to tackle illegal deforestation.

So, when you go for that walk through your local wood and listen to the cacophony of birdsong and take in the smells as you breathe in the fresh air, take a minute to consider the innovative work that is going on across the world to ensure that forests everywhere have a future in an ever-changing world.