Updated: Jun 16, 2022
How have forests affected your life today?
Do you know Singapore has over 2,000 ha of forest area? That is almost 4% of Singapore’s land!
You might be wondering why this matters, but we depend on forests for our survival. Forests produce the air that we breathe, the food we eat, and the wood we use. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. Forestry products are also a vital part of our daily lives in more ways than we can imagine.
What is the International Day of Forests?
Celebrated all over the world on March 21st annually, the International Day of Forests is to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests. Countries are encouraged to participate in local, national, and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees. This year’s 2022 theme is “Forests and sustainable production and consumption”.
We are especially excited about this year’s theme because it shares the need to shift away from unsustainable practices that drain our natural resources and damage vital ecosystems is essential to creating a future where people and nature can thrive.
6 Reasons to celebrate International Day of Forests
1. Our forests create jobs
Over 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods. They are not just jobs like logging, carpentry, or woodworking. Healthy and living forests can provide long-term economic value to a range of industries. This includes, but is not limited to farmers, foresters, rangers, conservationists, tour guides, nature photographers, herbalists, foragers, tree planters, and more. Much like trees support entire ecosystems, the benefits of jobs in the forest sector ripple across the global economy.
Our forests provide the nutritious food we eat! These include bananas, mangoes, avocados, coconuts, mushrooms, and more. These foods have traditionally been used to supplement diets, providing vitamins, minerals, and proteins that rural communities may not be able to get elsewhere. Throughout history, they have also played an important role in community resilience by helping humans survive food shortages during floods, droughts, famines, and conflicts.
Here in Singapore, we have big plans to ramp up our local food production aligning to the 30–by–30 Plan, to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030, up from the less than 10% it currently produces. There have also been ideas to establish “Food Forests” to support our food security and resilience.
3. Nature Healers
For centuries, trees have been one of nature’s greatest healers. From Witch-hazel in North America which can relieve inflammation and soothe sore throats, to Ginkgo Biloba in China which improves our circulation and heart health. The peoples of Southeast Asian forests used 6,500 species, while Northwest Amazonian forest dwellers used at least 1,300 species for medicinal purposes.
Not only do the forests provide for indigenous and traditional cultures, but western medicines also benefit from the forests too. Although only 1% of rainforests’ plants have been researched, around 25% of pharmaceutical medicines used today are derived from them. Protecting forests is as important to our health as it is to our earth’s health.
4. Protecting against extreme weather
Climate change has intensified and made extreme weather events like floods, landslides, cyclones, droughts, and forest fires a common occurrence. Forests can mitigate some effects of these extreme weather events. Trees with roots that dig deep into the ground hold the land together, absorbing stormwater. Fire-resistant bark can slow the spread of wildfires, leaves that gradually release water vapour and significantly reduce temperatures, powerful root systems that buffer coastal communities against cyclones, canopies that shelter us from harmful UV rays and so much more, healthy forests are our best defence against natural disasters.
As Singapore is an island city, we are more vulnerable to floods. Our rainforests can reduce the risk of flooding by absorbing and storing rainwater like a huge sponge. The millions of leaves in a hectare of forests can help to hold drops of water. Even long after the rain has stopped, the drops of water evaporate or drip to the ground, absorbed in the leaf litter and soil, or taken up by the roots. Only a small fraction of the rain ever reaches the streams and rivers.
5. Natural Air Conditioning
Living in a concrete jungle like Singapore, urban trees reduce the dangerous urban heat island effect, lowering temperatures by as much as 8°C. This also helps us decrease our energy usage, in turn reducing the need for carbon emissions from cooling by helping to regulate temperatures all year round. Did you know that well-placed trees can reduce air conditioning costs by 30%?
80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, including many endangered and endemic species, live in forests, and 50% live in tropical rainforests, where it’s common to find hundreds of species in a single hectare.
In Singapore, our primary forest, a forest of native species with almost no human activities, is a rich ecosystem with unique biodiversity. Just a few years ago, a team of biodiversity surveyors found interesting discoveries. Their discoveries include the re-discovery of white-spotted cat snake (Boiga drapiezii). This species of snake, which can grow up to 2 meters long, has not been seen in the country for more than 100 years until its rediscovery.
Another example of rediscovery is the bicoloured leaf-nosed bat. This species of bat’s presence has not been recorded for more than 130 years in Singapore. These rediscoveries indicate that there may be many more species of animals yet to be discovered!
Take a Hike
Unlike the common phrase, “There is literally nothing to do in Singapore!”, we really beg to differ. On International Day of Forests, treat yourself to the great outdoors and fresh forest air. There are over 183 hiking trails, mountain biking routes, backpacking trips, and more.
Why This Day is Close to our Hearts
At Insect Feed Technologies, our vision is to use insects as a cost-effective, traceable, and reliable solution to solve global protein and waste challenges, contributing to a more sustainable food system. Just like this year’s International Day of Forests theme – sustainable production and consumption, and aligning to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Responsible Consumption & Production, we realise how important and interconnected our food systems are to our forests.