We all depend on forests. In addition to providing us with oxygen while absorbing carbon from the air, their dense vegetation and biodiversity also give us an abundant supply of resources, as well as natural tools that keep the ecosystem in balance. But despite the importance of our forests, vast areas are being wiped out daily.
Over the last 50 years over half of the world’s forests have been lost. Although the importance of conservation is now generally understood, the World Wildlife Fund reports that we continue to lose forests at the rate of 36 football fields per minute. This loss impacts us all, but in developing countries where many small communities depend on forests for economic stability, the negative impact is exponential.
The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests, making a recently published research paper that examines regions where both economic and ecological benefits of forests have flourished even more relevant and timely.
Scientists have long debated whether forests could be both economically and ecologically beneficial, but according to the study’s authors little work has been done to understand how both might be achieved, reports the University Record Online. The study found that in areas where local residents were included in forest management decisions the forests were more likely to provide economic and social benefits to the community as well as contain more biodiversity. Analysis showed that forests are more likely to be sustainable when locals have the right to participate in forest rulemaking.
The paper was published in the March 25 Journal of Science, and considering its findings, is something all governments should consider before moving forward with future forest management discussions and plans.