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Forests

Conserve the world's most important forests to sustain nature's diversity, benefit our climate, and support human well-being

Overview

The dawn chorus of birds singing, monkeys howling, frogs calling and insects buzzing. The crystal clear waterfalls that are perfect for a refreshing afternoon swim. Fireflies that illuminate trees at night.

The beauty and tranquility of forests all over the world—from tropics to the tundra—inspire all of us. We know that eight out of 10 species found on land live in forests. Almost 300 million people, particularly in developing countries, live in forests too.

But threats to the world’s forests are growing. Expanding agriculture, due to an increased population and shifts in diet, is responsible for most of the world’s deforestation. Illegal and unsustainable logging, usually resulting from the demand for cheap wood and paper, is responsible for most of the degradation of the world’s forests.

The threats are so severe that we are losing forests at a rate equivalent to 48 football fields per minute. The Amazon, the planet’s largest rain forest, lost at least 17 percent of its forest cover in the last half century due to human activity—mainly clearing trees to create new or larger farms and ranches.

WWF is working to address the threats to forests: By 2020, we must conserve the world’s most important forests to sustain nature’s diversity, benefit our climate and support human well-being.

Most of WWF’s work is being done in tropical rain forests, which are the most biologically diverse and complex forests on Earth—forests in the Amazon, the Congo Basin, the Greater Mekong and other regions near the equator. But it also is taking place in temperate regions, such as the Russian Far East and the United States.

Sumatran Rhino

8 out of 10

Eight out of 10 land-dwelling species and nearly 300 million people live in forests.

Community leaders work to protect Papua's forests and fight climate change

Community leaders in Papua are inspiring people to support the approach that local communities, WWF, and others are starting to use to save Papua’s forests—which are some of the largest remaining intact forests in Southeast Asia, but are increasingly at risk of being destroyed to make room for palm oil plantations, as well as mining and industrial logging operations.

Alex Waisimon

Why It Matters

  • People Depend on Forests

    Deforestation can disrupt the lives of local communities, sometimes with devastating consequences. Forests provide a vast array of resources to all of us, including food, wood, medicine, fresh water, and the air we breathe. Without the trees, the ecosystem that supports the human population can fall apart.

  • Carbon Sink

    Forest trees and other plants soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it away as they grow and thrive. Tropical forests alone hold more than 210 gigatons of carbon, seven times the amount emitted each year by human activities.

  • Unique Biodiversity

    Eighty percent of the world’s known terrestrial plant and animal species can be found in forests, and tropical rainforests are home to more species than any other terrestrial habitat. A square kilometer of forest may be home to more than 1,000 species.

What WWF Is Doing

planted pines

Eliminate Deforestation Threats

To eliminate one of the largest drivers of deforestation—the irresponsible expansion of agricultural operations—WWF is focused on ensuring that agribusinesses, governments and others meet their commitments to help conserve the world’s forests. Doing so marries the strengths of two approaches WWF uses to stop deforestation. One is the ability, via REDD+ programs, to engage with governments. The other is the ability, via market-based certification schemes, to engage with agriculture producers. To address infrastructure-related drivers of deforestation, we seek to influence the financing of roads, mines and other infrastructure in the developing world, largely by ensuring that the value of forests are factored into decisions about where to create or expand infrastructure. And to tackle overconsumption, also a large threat, we strive to raise awareness about how the food people eat is produced, particularly in the context of how much and what land is used to produce it.

Influence Funding

WWF seeks to close the gap between how much is available for forest conservation and how much is needed. We help create multi-million dollar funds to properly manage forests that are designated as protected. The funding is to train park officials about responsible forest management, buy satellite GPS collars to monitor and track endangered wildlife, and more. We also support Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a global initiative designed to pay groups or countries for protecting their forests and reducing emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants, especially carbon dioxide.

Influence Policies

Effective policies related to forest conservation are as important as the funding. That’s why WWF helps countries, like Myanmar and Belize, assess the value of their natural resources and the services they provide, such as forests that absorb carbon and provide habitat for endangered wildlife. Decision makers use the assessments in a variety of ways, including promoting a green economy approach—one in which the sustainable use of natural capital is integrated into a country’s new plans and policies for the economy, agriculture, energy and more.

Forests will not survive unless the responsible management of them becomes the norm. That requires eliminating illegal and unsustainable logging. To do so, WWF works to strengthen the US government’s ability to prosecute illegal timber cases; stop illegal logging in countries that export high volumes of timber; ensure full implementation of the Lacey Act, a US law that prohibits illegal timber and timber products from entering the US market; and design rural energy programs that rely on fuels other than firewood.

Motivate the Marketplace

We tap into the power of US companies that buy and sell forest products. For example, through our Global Forest & Trade Network, we help US companies source products from responsibly managed forests, particularly those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). We also encourage them to invest directly in increasing the acreage of responsibly-managed working forest and to help increase the demand for FSC-certified products.

Projects

  • Bhutan: Committed to Conservation

    Bhutan is at the heart of the Eastern Himalayas, which supplies one-third of the world’s freshwater. And the country’s forests help keep climate change at bay by absorbing carbon dioxide. Bhutan is one of the world’s 10 most biodiverse countries. But Bhutan’s natural resources are on the brink of being more threatened now than ever before, despite the government’s political will and conservation milestones. Why? The country has changed more in the last 50 years than the past 500 years combined.

  • Protecting Peru's Natural Legacy

    WWF and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation are the first partners in an initiative to protect Peru, which is based on an innovative funding approach called Project Finance for Permanence that has been used in Brazil. The goal of the initiative is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the public land within Peru’s network of protected areas.

View More Projects

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