10 forest facts … and a few more


This week is filled to the brim with “International Days”. Yesterday was World Happiness Day, and tomorrow is World Water Day. Today has two: World Poetry Day and … World Forest Day. The purpose of the 2017 is not only a global celebration of trees and the forests in which they live, but also to celebrate the ways in which they sustain and protect us. This year’s theme, therefore, is the importance of wood energy in improving people’s lives, powering sustainable development and mitigating climate change. Here are ten energy facts about forests and the wood they produce…

1  The largest source of renewable energy in the world

Wood energy from the forest is the largest source of renewable energy we are using in the world today, accounting for roughly 40 percent of current renewable supply. That’s more than any other form of renewable energy, including solar, hydroelectric or wind power!

2  More than a third of all the people in the world rely on wood fuel

One in three households (2.4 billion people) rely on woodfuel, including charcoal, for cooking, boiling water and heating their homes. By supplying the energy required to prepare safe and nutritious food, wood fuel is a major contributor to food security and nutrition.

3  Burning sustainable produced woodfuel can combat climate change

Unlike fossil fuels, when forests are managed sustainably, carbon emitted into the atmosphere by burning woodfuel becomes part of a closed loop: the trees planted to replace those cut down recapture and store the carbon as they grow. When used instead of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, sustainably produced wood helps to combat climate change!

4  Half the global production of wood is used for cooking, heating and power generation

About 50 per cent of the wood produced worldwide (or around 1.86 billion cubic meters) is used as energy for cooking, heating, and electricity generation. In Africa, this share goes up to 90 percent, and over 60 percent in Asia.

5  Indoor pollution from wood burning is a major killer of human beings around the world

Unfortunately, exposure to indoor air pollution causes 4.3 million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) – a toll higher than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. For this reason, the UN is working to promote clean and efficient ways to use woodfuels, such as improved stoves, which can significantly reduce exposure to indoor air pollution while also reducing the quantity of wood that has to be collected from forests.

6  More than 700 million women and girls (often unpaid) collect firewood.

The wood energy sector provides income for households around the world. Approximately 883 million people in developing countries are engaged in wood-energy activities either full-time or part-time. Of these, over 700 million are women and girls, often undertaking unpaid work collecting firewood.

7  Forest waste to jet fuel

Scientists can now make bio-diesel from forest waste, which are being used to power cars and aeroplanes. In 2016, Alaska Airlines flew the first commercial flight using jet fuel made from tree branches left over from forest harvesting.

8  Forest waste to fuel pellets

The production of wood pellets increased to 28 million tons in 2015, with nearly all production concentrated in Europe and Northern America. Wood pellets are usually made from compacted sawdust and waste left over from producing timber, wood products and furniture, although sometimes trees are grown specifically for this purpose.

9  Urban canopies make good aircons

Strategically placed trees in urban areas provide shade from the sun and can cool the air by between two and eight degrees Celsius, and also reduce air conditioning needs by up to 30 percent in summer.

10  Forest foods – we eat a lot of them

Forest foods such as leaves, fruits, nuts, mushrooms, honey and insects have long been important items for people living in small villages and provide them with essential vitamins and minerals. We eat almost 11 kg of these forest foods per person in a year.

This article was compiled from information provided by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

And while we’re at it, here are another four great facts about forests from Conservation International:

  • About 36 football fields’ worth of trees are lost every minute due to deforestation.
  • When forests are cleared, they emit carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. In fact, 11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans are from deforestation — equivalent to the emissions from all of the cars and trucks on the planet.
  • In 50 years, a single tree can release about 6,000 pounds of breathable oxygen, enough for about four people per year.
  • The Amazon region alone accounts for 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water and 10 per cent of the world’s known species.

About Author

Peter has a career in publishing and conservation spanning more than four decades. His most recent project has been the development of Untold Africa, a meeting place for intelligent, engrossing and entertaining dialogue for a global community of like-minded people - people who share a common passion for the wild places of Africa, the creatures that inhabit them, and the breadth of African culture. See more

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