1 April 2021 | 8 minutes.

Forests are allies of human health

Forests have a direct impact on our physical and mental health.

Photo: Meiying NG

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Anne-Lise Avril
Head of Public Communication at Reforest'Action

Anne-Lise Avril, Head of Public Communication at Reforest'Action

Forests create a wide variety of ecosystem services essential to human health and well-being on a daily basis. They are the world’s largest terrestrial carbon sink and the main source of terrestrial biodiversity. They provide 75% of the freshwater available to humanity, supply us with a natural pharmacy with species known for their medicinal properties, act as barriers against pandemics, generate edible products consumed by 100 million Europeans, and provide energy for more than 2 billion people on Earth.

Forests alone represent one of the main pillars of human development, guaranteeing harmony with nature and peace between nations. It is essential to recall that now, more than ever, our future depends on forests in a context where humanity faces increasing health risks; the World Health Organization (WHO) tries to warn us against and where the COVID-19 pandemic (which killed more than 2.5 million and infected tens of millions of people in a year), foreshadowing the emergence of even more severe pandemics in the future.

Forests and food security

Berries, mushrooms, plants, roots or game: forests are genuine open-air pantries that provide for the needs of 25% of the world’s population. They also help to provide clean water to agricultural land by protecting watersheds and are therefore essential for agriculture and food security at a global scale.

Since our health heavily depends on our diet, the FAO estimates that global agricultural production is expected to increase by 60% by 2050. This figure reflects the need to feed the world’s population, expected to exceed nine billion people by the middle of the century. Yet, agriculture is by far the leading cause of global deforestation. More than half of the world’s deforestation is directly linked to the conversion of forests into crops or pastures. This has a direct impact on food security and health, especially for the most vulnerable populations witnessing the reduction of water and edible products from trees.

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