"To build a sustainable, climate-resilient future for all, we must invest in our world's forests. That will take political commitment at the highest levels, smart policies, effective law enforcement, innovative partnerships and funding." - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
In 2013, the United Nations designated March 21st as International Day of Forests, a day devoted to raising global awareness of the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests. The Global Observatory for Ecosystem Services (GOES) in Michigan State University’s Department of Forestry proudly joins the United Nations in commemorating the International Day of Forests, announcing an initiative in India to raise awareness of the importance of forests.
The theme for the 2015 UN International Day is “Forests and Climate Change”, highlighting forest-based solutions to address climate change mitigation and adaptation, and more broadly forests and sustainable development.
Together with its partners IORA Ecological Solutions, Vertiver creative agency, Tetra Tech ARD and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the GOES Laboratory is helping to develop the India Forest Portal (at http://indiaforestportal.com/), a resource to raise awareness among the general public in India about the importance of conserving invaluable forest resources. Combined with the Portal is a nationwide publicity campaign in the form of street advertising.
The India Forest Portal is one small element in the comprehensive USAID-funded Forest PLUS Program, a joint effort between the governments of India and United States to develop solutions for sustainable land use in India. Forest PLUS includes a strong focus on the implementation of a mechanism called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, or REDD+. REDD+ includes climate change mitigation, improvement of livelihoods and biodiversity protection.
“The India Forest Portal is much more than a symbolic celebration of the UN International Day of Forests,” commented Dr. David Skole, Professor and Director of the GOES Laboratory. “Together with our Indian partners, this is a practical effort to educate people about forests, how they perform vital functions that enable life on Earth and their role in combating climate change. This is just one of many ways that our team at the GOES Laboratory at Michigan State University is working day in and day out to develop the tools and resources to conserve forests around the world.”
Besides supporting the India Forest Portal, the GOES Laboratory also develops advanced technical tools and resources, education and training and other high-level expertise to advance the ability of the Government of India to manage its forests more sustainably.
Beyond Forest PLUS, the GOES Laboratory is involved in numerous other projects, including a USAID-funded initiative to protect the forests of Malawi, a NASA funded program to monitor and map industrial forests in the tropical Asia-Pacific region and a Governor’s Climate and Forests Fund program to support REDD+ efforts in Indonesia, among others.
All of these initiatives are critical, because forests cover one third of the Earth's land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people - including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures - depend on forests for their livelihood, providing shelter, jobs and security. Forests are home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects, and they play a key role in our battle in adapting to and mitigating climate change. Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the atmosphere. They also protect watersheds, which supply 75% of freshwater worldwide.
“Because forests are so important and the challenges presented by climate change are so urgent, the GOES Laboratory will continue to tirelessly engage in this important work,” conclude Dr. Skole. “If we’re to have any hope of addressing climate change, we must protect our forests. And, we need everyone on board to support that effort.”