Home News News International Day of Forests – Frontiers in the Fight for Our Future

International Day of Forests – Frontiers in the Fight for Our Future

You could be forgiven for thinking David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) focuses just on our eight core species as a conservation charity – but in fact, our scope goes far beyond them, because of the incredible impact they have on their environment. All but one are considered keystone species – animals that have a disproportionately large effect on the ecosystems they inhabit, relative to their abundance. Pangolins aren’t specifically considered a keystone species, yet still play a vital role as voracious insectivores – and their absence would soon tip the environmental balance of their home ranges into chaos.

These species positively impact their natural surroundings – and as we work to protect them, our support and funding goes towards not just safeguarding them, but also their wild homes, which for many of them, are forests and woodland. And to do so, we also engage with the people living alongside them and these precious, niche environments.

Both elephants and rhinos are ecosystem engineers. By thinning out vegetation – either through foraging or fording their way through, they reduce the number of smaller trees, resulting in taller trees with wider diameters and a greater capacity to store carbon. Then there’s their dung – which is natural, nutrient-rich manure that contains seeds, nuts, fungi, and more all ready to sprout. It’s also the preferred food source and nest-lining material for many species of dung beetle, who will handily store it in their burrows – which make for ideal growing conditions.

Research by the International Monetary Fund has shown that a single forest elephant can increase the carbon storage of African rainforests by 9,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per km. If you’re wondering what the carbon credit value of that might be in monetary terms… it’s $1.75 million.

With approximately 415,000 elephants left in Africa (compared to the 10 million there were in 1930), that’s a $726 billion climate change solution just walking around. However, we’re the first to admit that the IMF’s research focused on forest elephants (remaining population of approximately 150,000), but we hope you get our point.

Image Credit: Silke Hullmann.

Forests and Innovation – New Solutions for a Better World

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the first ‘International Day of Forests’ on March 21, 2012. The day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests. The 2024 theme is ‘Forests and Innovation’.

We know that a lot of the conversation around the climate can be alarming, and that eco-anxiety is being felt by many of us. But progress is being made in the fight for a greener future, and innovation and technology are playing a vital role.

  • New, transparent methods of monitoring forests have shown 13.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide forest emission reductions or enhancements*.
  • With 10 million hectares of forest lost to deforestation and 70 million hectares affected by fire annually, technological advancements are being used to build cutting-edge early warning systems.
  • As we have always championed and recognised through our work, indigenous peoples are the primary custodians of these fragile landscapes and ecosystems. Through new innovations in mapping technology, customary land is being secured – and digital resources are enabling communities to access climate finance initiatives to help ensure their crucial role in biodiversity conservation and carbon storage.
  • Innovations in eco-agriculture and rewilding are helping restore forests on degraded land – and could contribute up to a third of total climate mitigation needed to limit warming to below 2°C by 2030.

*Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2024.

Wild Africa Fund (WFA)

We’re also using this International Day of Forests to introduce you to Wild Africa Fund – a new DSWF project partner who we are providing support and funding to for demand reduction work in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s wildlife is under severe pressure – it isn’t an understatement to say it is the epicentre of Africa’s ivory and pangolin-scale trade. The work here is very much centred on changing traditional attitudes towards wildlife use, and introducing more sustainable, wildlife friendly practices within these communities.

The influence of these programmes can’t be understated. Successful campaigning in Kenya resulted in a public holiday being declared November 13, 2023, their first ‘National Tree Planting Day’ – an ongoing public holiday with the goal to eventually plant 100 million trees.  

Other Forest Focused DSWF Projects

We work with project partners in Guinea to protect vital forest habitat for chimpanzees. A key aspect of this has been enabling key communities to move away from unsustainable livelihoods that rely on harvesting or felling trees – such as the gathering of wild honey. Just one village could potentially fell 1,000 trees over the course of a year, significantly increasing the risk of fire at the same time through their activities. Bark used to build traditional beehives could multiply that number by a factor of five. DSWF funding has enabled not just a more modern, sustainable beekeeping programme that produces better quality honey – but also a gardening project that encourages the planting of trees and nutritious fruits and vegetables, to lessen community reliance on the forest even further.

Image Credit: Will Fortescue

In Kenya, we are working with project partners on the ground to protect key areas and wildlife corridors used by pangolins – including the incredible rare and elusive giant pangolin. Here, we are focusing on protecting forest blocks and halting the loss of closed-canopy forest. Our support is helping protect, restore, and conserve a priority area of 4,091 hectares.

And in Thailand, we are supporting important policy work to prevent forest fragmentation, as the government implements linear infrastructure projects that could cut through the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest complex – vital habitat for tigers and their prey.

How You Can Help

Raising awareness is a key aspect in protecting forests – knowing the challenges being faced and the work communities do to safeguard them means you can take part in the conversation. And by sharing posts, blogs, and content – you can champion their efforts.

You can also directly support DSWF’s work by signing up for key updates, donating, or organising your own fundraiser – perhaps to support some of our forest focused projects above!

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