Five reasons why
we should care about trees
Across the world’s forests, an area of trees the size of 36 football pitches is lost with every minute that passes. This has to stop. From the air we breathe to the paper we write on, a bright future depends on our forests. Here are five reasons why we need to care about trees, now more than ever!
1. We need trees to breathe
We would be in real trouble without our forests. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. Practically all animal life on Earth needs oxygen to breathe and forests play a key role in the complex global oxygen cycle. Deforestation and forest degradation poses a threat to our air quality, and contributes up to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Trees regulate our climate and help combat climate change
Trees help regulate climate change. They act as insulation for the planet and help to maintain consistent temperatures. Tropical forests are some of the largest carbon sinks on Earth. Every year, they store around 2.8 billion tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of twice the CO2 emissions of the USA. When trees are cleared, not only is CO2 released into the atmosphere, but there are fewer trees to absorb the greenhouse gases.
Climate change will increase the likelihood of extreme weather events. This year alone, extreme weather events have already cost thousands of lives, from deadly heat waves in India and Pakistan, to severe flooding in Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar. Protecting our forests from deforestation can help limit the impact and severity of natural disasters. Saving trees can save lives.
3. Trees produce water
Trees are essential to the water cycle. 75% of the world’s water comes from forests, which humidify the air through a process known as evapotranspiration. The moistened air moves inland and falls as rain, which sustains plant and tree growth. Without this process large areas, including cities and farmland, would be much drier. Forests also help reduce the risk of flooding by slowing the rate that rainwater flows off hills into rivers and streams, helping soils absorb water and release it slowly in a steady supply. By this same process, tree cover can help improve water quality and reduce soil erosion. These benefits mean that trees and forests can help us adapt to the effects of climate change, not just reduce its severity.
4. People and animals depend on forests
Forests are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species and they maintain the livelihoods of over 1 billion people - 60 million of whom are indigenous and tribal people, and almost wholly dependent on forests. Forest degradation has a direct impact on millions of families around the world, due to the fine balance of rainforest ecosystems. For example, smallholder farmers rely on certain species of insects and birds from nearby rainforests to visit their crops and pollinate them.
5. Our everyday lives would not be the same without trees
You don't have to live near one to have forests in your life. Trees allow us produce essential products that we use and benefit from in our daily lives - from the wooden beams that keep a roof over your head, to the pages of paper that make up your favourite magazine. Besides wood, forests also host plant life that provides us with one quarter of the world’s medicines. According to the US National Cancer Institute, of the 3000 plants identified as active against cancer cells, 70% are from the rainforest.
Making a Difference
At Unilever, we’re committed to sourcing our raw materials in responsible, sustainable ways. We already source 55% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably and have committed to achieving zero net deforestation. We support the New York Declaration on Forests, and its aim to end deforestation by 2030 and restore 350 million hectares of degraded land.
This year, we are also supporting the work of WWF to help protect one million trees in Brazil and Indonesia - two of the world’s most threatened forest areas.
To stand a chance against climate change, we have to stand up for our forests. 2015 could be a turning point in our planet’s history. To ensure the possibility of a bright future, people and organisations must come together to climate take action.
Sign the Unilever & WWF pledge to help protect one million trees. By showing your support, we’ll help protect a tree on your behalf.