UN says urgent action needed to protect forests, source of food for nearly 1B people

UN says urgent action needed to protect forests, source of food for nearly 1B people

On International Day of Forests, Food and Agriculture Organization says forests contain 50,000 plants species but are under threat

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) – Forests are food and nutrition sources for nearly a billion people, helping mitigate climate change and acting as buffers to heat and extreme weather events, so urgent action is needed to protect them, the UN said on the International Day of Forests.

On Tuesday, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hosted an event that underscored how the protection and sustainable management of the world's woodland areas needs to be a top priority.

That is due to forests' crucial contribution to livelihoods, nutrition, biodiversity, and addressing the impacts of the climate crisis.

"We need strong commitments from governments, international organizations, the public and private sector, civil society, academia, and each of us individually," FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said at the event in Rome, calling for accelerated action to save forests.

"We need to enhance forest restoration through sustainable forest management that benefits people and the planet," he urged.

More than 30% of new diseases reported since 1960 are attributed to land-use change, including deforestation, according to the FAO.

Qu said forests are essential to human, animal, plant, and ecosystem health.

They contain 50,000 plant species with healing properties, and local communities worldwide depend on them to treat various ailments.

Forests also protect from diseases, a natural barrier to disease transmission between animals and humans.

"But forests are under threat, and with that, the benefits we derive from them," said the FAO.

According to the FAO, between 2015 and 2020, 10 million hectares – roughly the equivalent of 14 million football pitches – of forest were lost each year to deforestation.

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