Why do we protect forests and plant trees? 

Forests are important for a healthy climate and biodiversity

Forests are extremely important for our climate, provide a habitat for the majority of animal and plant species on earth and offer us humans important ecosystem services.

  • Around 3.4 trillion tons of carbon are stored long-term in forest soil and trees worldwide. This makes forests one of the largest carbon sinks on land, even though they only cover just under 30% of the land surface.
  • Forests regulate precipitation and are part of the water cycle. In one day, a large tree can absorb up to 370 liters of water from the soil and release it back into the atmosphere. The evaporation of water from plants and naturally vegetated soil accounts for around 40 % of our rainfall on an annual average. Scientists have also been able to show that air passing over tropical rainforests produces twice as much rain as air passing over less densely vegetated regions. Without coastal forests, it could therefore be much drier in the interior of our continents, according to research.
  • Forests protect the soil from erosion by wind or water and are therefore important for maintaining fertile soil. In addition, their root system strengthens the soil, reducing the likelihood of landslides or avalanches. 
  • Forests are one of the most species-rich habitats in the world and provide protection and shelter for countless animal and plant species. Forests are home to the most species of all terrestrial habitat types: around 80 % of all terrestrial species find a habitat in forests.
Stummelaffe sitzt auf Ast
Fleckenkauz sitzt auf Baum

Forests are under massive pressure worldwide

Forests currently cover almost four billion hectares, or around 30% of the earth's surface, of which tropical forests account for 45%. More than 50% of this global forest area is divided between just five countries: Russia, Brazil, Canada, the USA and China.

The extent to which forests will continue to cover our planet in the future is questionable. Forests have been under massive pressure worldwide for some time now. On average, 7.8 million hectares of forest were lost each year between 2000 and 2018. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), tropical rainforests are still among the most threatened. At 157 million hectares, the loss of tropical forests accounted for more than 90% of global deforestation between 2000 and 2018. Tropical forest ecosystems in Latin America and Africa were particularly affected by the destruction caused by small-scale farming and industrial agriculture and forestry, road construction, urbanization and mining - the main causes of tropical forest loss, according to studies. However, boreal and temperate forests in North America and Europe are also increasingly falling victim to energy wood production. As a result, a large proportion of forests are already heavily fragmented by human activity or fragmented by land consumption.

Treiber der weltweiten Entwaldung nach Kontinenten von 2001 bis 2015
Drivers of global deforestation by continent from 2001 to 2015
Photo: World Resources Insitute

At the 2021 climate conference in Glasgow, 145 countries set the goal of ending global deforestation by 2030 and restoring 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forests. Looking at current figures on forest loss, this goal is a long way off. In 2022, for example, deforestation was 21% above the level required to achieve this goal. 

We create alternatives to deforestation by smallholders
Around 1.6 billion people worldwide are directly dependent on forests. In addition, more than 30% of forests in developing countries are owned and managed by local communities or local families. Forests are burned and cut down in order to obtain fertile soil and thus generate agricultural yields. At the same time, erosion, heavy rainfall and drought continue to increase due to the ongoing destruction of intact ecosystems. Soil yields are becoming less and less successful and forests are being destroyed faster and faster.

According to forestry scientists, there are three main areas that need to be addressed in order to stop the global decline in forests:

  • The preservation of forests, for example through the designation of protected areas.
  • The restoration of degraded areas.
  • Sustainable use and management of forests to enable a forest-friendly way of life.

According to the FAO, agroforestry approaches can combine these three areas. Through "conservation through use", forest degradation can be effectively mitigated and forests can be restored as farmers develop a vested interest in forest conservation. In our forest protection and reforestation projects, we use this dynamic agroforestry method to sustainably protect degraded areas for both people and nature.