Forests are beautiful, are home to a variety of wildlife, and play an important role in caring for the world we live in.
Much like their appearance, the benefits of forests are complex.
According to a recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States of America (FAO), forests “provide water, provide livelihoods, mitigate climate change, and are essential to sustainable food production.”
However, everything is not okay. The 2020 report on the State of Forests of the World said that both forest degradation and deforestation “continue to occur at alarming rates”.
While the FAO notes that the rate of deforestation has indeed decreased over the past three decades, it notes that since 1990 an estimated 420 million hectares “have been lost to conversion to other land uses”.
Against this background, a number of organizations are trying to promote the sustainable management of forests.
This includes the France-based social enterprise Reforest’Action focused on the preservation, restoration and creation of forests.
Stéphane Hallaire is the President and Founder of Reforest’Action. At a location in Neauphlette, west of Paris, he explained to CNBC’s “Sustainable Energy” how his company had worked the surrounding landscape to create a diverse environment.
“This forest used to be a poplar forest, a damaged one,” he said. “So four years ago we removed trees and planted a diverse forest of oaks … but also chestnut trees … and wild cherry trees.”
“They make up a diverse forest, and disease, storms and forest fires make slow progress in a diverse forest as opposed to a ‘more unique’ one.”
Hallaire was then asked about the threats to forests today. “There are different types of threats to forests depending on where you are,” he said.
“If you are in the tropical regions, deforestation is the greatest threat today,” he added. “But when you are in temperate forests like in Europe or France, there is no more deforestation, forests are being degraded due to climate change.” Examples he gave were more frequent and violent storms, diseases, and insects.
The conversation revolved around the work of Afforestt, an Indian organization trying to make cities green with a technique that uses high density plants.
A for-profit social enterprise founded in 2011 by former Toyota Engineer Shubhendu Sharma, Afforestt, uses the Miyawaki technique, named after the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki.
In simple terms, it’s a method that emphasizes the importance of high density plants and native species.
Afforestt combines Miyawaki technology with Heijunka, a system that enables companies to reduce waste and increase efficiency.
Reforest’Action’s Hallforaire described urban forestry as “very important” and said his company “has done this several times in France and Europe”.
He cited the example of his organization, which planted an urban forest in the French capital Paris.
“It was 700 square meters … and all the people who lived around the place came together, the families, the children and the parents to plant the trees.”
Given the benefits forests bring, one might be tempted to encourage their growth in any part of the world.
It’s not that simple, however. When asked where forests are needed, Hallaire wanted to emphasize that they are not “needed in all parts of the world because in some places forests do not grow, they do not exist”.
“But forests are needed in most places, and especially in tropical regions,” he added.