Disclosure: This is a guest post written by Center Parcs but all photography is my own and copyright of this website.
The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 12% of the nation covered in forests.
This is a marked improvement on the all time low of 5% at the turn of the twentieth century, though there is still more we can do to protect our woodlands. Center Parcs have invested a lot of time to make their forest holidays the best option for UK short breaks. Jean Henkens, environmental activist and chief botanist at Center Parcs, flies around the world rescuing near extinct species of plant to re-home them in safety at one of the UK’s four Center Parcs locations. This just goes to show how seriously they take this environmental venture. They have put together a list of the eight most important reasons why we should respect and love the wooded land we were gifted with. They are:
1. Forests enrich the soil – Forests carry out the important role of keeping our soil nice and rich, an essential ingredient for both successful farming and gardening. Not only are they a hub of wildlife such as worms that act as nature’s very own little ploughs. As they chew through the mud they churn it up leaving fertile soil behind. The increase in animals living in these areas leads to an increase in animals dying in these areas; as they slowly decompose into the ground they restore many natural properties and ingredients to the soil. A similar effect of decay can be seen on a much larger scale in trees, during the yearly cycle of deciduous trees. In the spring time trees grow shoots that become leaves and eventually fall off in the autumn. These leaves decay and essentially melt into the ground and in turn become a key source of sustenance for the trees as they come out of hibernation in the spring.
2. Forests regulate water quality – Forests are of great importance to the water cycle that keeps our green and pleasant land well watered throughout the year. This may sound, to some sun worshippers, like the perfect reason to chop them all down, but they are vital for the delicate balance of nature. Even at the level of 12% forest cover, the UK’s remaining trees are straining to keep all our gardens nice and green. They also act as a natural filter for the water that is eventually supplied to our home. Water is sucked up from the ground through roots and then is evaporated through the leaves into the atmosphere, forming rain clouds. So not only do they keep our gardens watered, they also keep a lot of the ‘nasties’ found in our water out of our taps, giving us clean and delicious water to drink.
3. Forests preserve biodiversity – A lot of the wildlife native to the UK runs the risk of extinction at the hands of urbanization. The responsibility rests solely on us to maintain this wildlife the best we can. Many of the native species are at their most comfortable in a wooded environment, particularly the dormouse that lives solely in woodland with a thick canopy. Other than this little creature deer, hedgehogs, weasels and the beloved stoat are in their element in the forest. Mother nature has worked tirelessly for millennia to bring us all these wonderful creatures; it would be a massive shame for humanity to do away with them in the blink of an eye.
4. Forests actively absorb harmful CO2 – Global warming is a buzzword at present and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It is set to dominate national and international discourse in the years to come, as we search to find a viable replacement for fossil fuels. In a time of such crisis it seems, to simple old me at least, that the last thing we want to be doing is chopping down more trees. They act as a barrier towards this looming problem. Much like a sponge, trees soak up a lot of CO2 and convert it into friendly oxygen particles.
5. The effects of logging and deforestation – As humanity chops down more and more trees it becomes harder and harder for the environment to deal with the effects of industrialisation and urbanisation. Chopping down trees would, to my eyes at least, be the wrong way to go. What makes deforestation seem even more short-sighted is that not only are we damaging our chances of rectifying the situation we are in fact making the situation far worse. Logging, combustion and decomposition of trees adds up to 20% of the world’s yearly CO2production. That, if you can believe it, is as much as cars, lorries, trains, planes and boats combined.
6. The forest is a veritable pharmacist – The forest is the source of much of the medicine we rely on today to keep us living longer, happier lives. Plant extracts form the basis of a lot of the modern medicine we use today. If we are serious about eradicating one of humanity’s biggest killers, cancer, we must get serious about our relationship with woodland. A majority of the earlier stage medicines prescribed to cancer sufferers are from extracts of plants.
7. Worldwide forest levels are rapidly diminishing – The rate of deforestation at home has slowed somewhat since the beginning of last century but we as an island are a mere drop in the ocean. We do, though, still need wood. The buck is passed to developing nations to fill our quota of wood and in return receive a healthy sum of money. Logging is an easy way to earn a quick buck. As such, globally 15,000km2 of tropical forest is destroyed each year. That is the equivalent area of England and Wales.
8. We have already created almost irreparable damage – In little over 500 years humanity has irreparably damaged the forest environment and undone a lot of nature’s tireless work. At this current moment time, if we were to stop deforestation and naturally let it grow back, it would take 100 million years. That is an almost unthinkable amount of time and makes our few thousand years on this planet seem a mere flicker in the grander scheme of things.
I hope these eight points highlight just a few of the reasons the forest is essential to the continued success of life on earth. The power is in our hands to avoid the disappearance of yet more trees, we just need to wake up and smell the coffee.
What are your motivations for saving the forest? How can we do this?