Arbor Day, a holiday to celebrate trees, is Friday, April 29th. It began on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska, spreading from Julius Sterling Morton’s ideas that Nebraska’s landscape and economy would benefit from the wide-scale planting of trees. He set an example himself by planting orchards, shade trees and wind breaks on his own farm and proposed that a special day be set aside dedicated to tree planting and increasing awareness of the importance of trees. On Nebraska’s first Arbor Day over one million trees were planted (Arbor Day Net).
To celebrate Arbor Day, our Map of the Week shows the top ten countries with the largest forest areas. Although this map shows countries with vast amounts of forest area, this is a significant time to talk about the devastating rates of deforestation occurring across the world that are making even the Earth’s largest forests vulnerable.
Deforestation is rapidly clearing the world’s forests, which often results in degraded land quality. According to National Geographic, forests still cover about 30 percent of the world’s land area but chunks of forests the size of Panama are lost each and every year. At the current rates of deforestation, the world’s rain forests could completely vanish in hundred of years!
Trees are cut down for many reasons but the biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture because farmers need more room for planting crops and grazing livestock. Logging operations which provide wood and paper products account for a large amount of trees cut each year and also, deforestation occurs due to growing urban sprawl. Deforestation has negative effects on the environment, such as habitat loss for millions of species, and is a driver of climate change. Trees play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming, so decreasing forest areas means greater amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere and increased global warming (National Geographic).
The quickest solution to deforestation is to stop cutting down trees but economic and financial realities make this unlikely to occur. So while we continue to cut down trees it is important that we continue to plant and grow trees, whether it be new large tree plantations, trees in our backyards, on sidewalks, or in our parks. Every tree counts, so let’s all plant a tree for Arbor Day!
Written by: Kathleen Emerson 4/27/2016