The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day could not be more appropriate. The profound link between human wellbeing and nature has been the way of life for Indigenous cultures around the world and forests and trees are central to this link.
And science is finally catching up. At CIFOR-ICRAF, we have spent decades investigating the connections between ecological integrity, sustainable use of forests and landscapes and human wellbeing, providing the evidence required to manage our forests, mangroves and peatlands sustainably but also to fully recognize the crucial role of trees on farms and outside of forests.
The devastating Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated indisputably the need for a science-based, transformative approach to managing landscapes that recognizes Indigenous knowledge. There is ample evidence that land cover changes resulting from ecosystem fragmentation and degradation are major drivers of the emergence or re-emergence of zoonotic diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Ebola or Lyme disease. The lesson nature is telling us is loud and clear.
The global challenges we now face, from biodiversity loss and environmental degradation to accelerating climate change, broken food systems and inequality, all demand urgent action. Here again forests and trees play a critical role.
On this World Wildlife Day, let’s remember that we are part of nature and depend on it for our health, livelihoods and so much more. When we protect species, forests and landscapes, we are ensuring a sustainable future for us all.
By protecting the environment, we protect ourselves. And remember: Forests Matter!