The Significance of Trees

  • Play a major role to conserve the intensity of the Earth's magnetic field.
  • Combat the greenhouse effect.
  • Control the noise pollution.
  • Provide raw material for many valuable products.
  • Trees are carbon sinks, accumulating carbon as they grow and acting as stable carbon stores upon maturity
  • Three-quarters of the world's people rely on wood as their main source of energy.
  • Lower air temperature and encourages rainfall by evaporating water from their leaves.

Global warming

Global warming is a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth's atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other pollutants. Global temperatures will rise by an additional 3°-10° F (1.6°-5.5° C) by the end of the century. 

The main factors which causes global warming are: 

Burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) 
Conversion of forestlands for other uses (80% of the original forest cover on Earth has been cleared, fragmented or degraded)
                                                                                                               
Impacts – Global Warming
  • Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. 
  • Sea level rise became faster in the last century.
  • Some varieties of plants and animals (some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants) have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas.
  • Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on average.
  • Spruce bark beetles have boomed in Alaska thanks to 20 years of warm summers. The insects have chewed up 4 million acres of spruce trees.
  • Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become much more stronger in the coming years.
  • Species that depend on one another may become out of sync. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active.

Do we really need to worry..?

  • If we all decide to make up for the loss that happened in the last decade, we may have to plant trees in an area of 130 million hectares. This means planting 14 billion trees every year for the next 10 years i.e. 2 saplings for every person on Earth (source: UNEP). 
  • Brazil, Indonesia, Sudan, Zambia and Mexico are the countries with maximum forest cover loss annually.
  •  Data from Google and the University of Maryland says the world lost 230 million hectares of trees between 2000 and 2012.In 1950, about 15% of the Earth's land surface was covered by rainforest. In less than fifty years, more than half of the world's tropical rainforests is lost to fire and the chain saw. 
  • More than 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day. That is more than 150 acres are lost every minute of every day, 78 million acres lost every year. If deforestation continues at this rate, it is estimated that nearly 80 to 90% of tropical rainforest ecosystems will be destroyed by the year 2020.
  • We are now losing a tropical forest the size of New York State every year, and the carbon that releases into the atmosphere now accounts for roughly 17% of all global emissions contributing to climate change. This is more carbon dioxide, than all cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships collectively emit into the atmosphere.

Indian Scenario – Land Degradation

India has the 10th largest forest cover in the world with 68 million hectares.
 
The government’s National Action Plan on climate change involves expanding forest cover from the current 23% to 33% of India's territory, and to afforest 6 million hectares of the degraded forest land. 45% of India's land is degraded. 

Reasons for Land Degradation
  • Excessive ground water extraction
  • Agricultural depletion of soil nutrients through poor farming practices
  • Mining 
  • Land clearance such as clear cutting and deforestation