22 May 2019

Forests and Biodiversity

Forests play a crucial role in protecting wildlife. Unfortunately, they are being lost at an alarming rate. Can local forest governance help protect them?

© Hum Bahadur Gurung
By April Bagwill

Forests. Most of us see them all the time. Whether it’s a small wood we pass on the way to work, a lush area where we enjoy hiking, or dense tropical woods that house thousands of species, we’re no strangers to this environment.

In spite of their seeming ubiquity though, do we ever stop to think about the importance of forests to wildlife around the world? Because if we did stop to think about it, we would realize that forests are integral to nature and the environment. In fact, forests are home to two-thirds of all land-based plants and mammals.

Despite this, we aren’t taking care of this valuable resource – in fact we are currently losing 10 billion trees a year. This figure is incredible when you consider how thoroughly not just wildlife, but humanity relies on trees.

The tropical forests of Asia and the Pacific, especially, are havens to an astounding variety of life found nowhere else in the world, and are essential refuges for species on the brink of extinction. This includes charismatic species such as the Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo of Papua New Guinea, the Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil in Malaysia, the Flores Hawk-eagle Nisaetus Floris in Indonesia and the Philippine Eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi in the Philippines. However, because of human activities, these forests are increasingly threatened.

To help protect these biodiversity hotpots, BirdLife International has teamed with Burung Indonesia (Indonesia), Haribon Foundation (Philippines), Malaysian Nature Society (Malaysia), and the Tenkile Conservation Alliance (Papua New Guinea) to empower local people to manage and protect their own forests. The Team knows that empowering local communities to protect forests is key to maintaining biodiversity, a major foundation for human health, livelihoods, and well-being.

There is no substitute for local knowledge, but sadly, the power of local communities and indigenous people is often constrained by lack of technical knowledge, experience, and political influence. With funding from the European Union, the Team is helping to bridge the gap between local people and the decisions made about their forest homes, and the biodiversity so crucial to everyone.

The Forest Governance project is funded by the European Union and led by BirdLife International. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of BirdLife International and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.