March 21st is International Day of Forests, which has honestly got to be one of the best and most important days ever implemented by the U.N. Here’s a link to the Wiki article, if you’re interested in the boring technical stuff that they do.
Forests are amazing. I have loved them since I was a kid, exploring what I perceived as the rugged wilderness of my grandparents’ suburban backyards. And while I grew to understand that the small stretch of woods between properties in Hampton Township did not constitute a forest, I have yet to outgrow my awe of, connection to, or love of, wooded areas.
Did you know that 80% of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests? And that while tropical rainforests cover only 10% of the Earth’s surface, more than half of all terrestrial species are thought to live there? And don’t be fooled by the phrase “thought to” in that sentence. Half is probably a significant underestimate, since new species are being discovered all the time, and many of the rainforests throughout the world remain largely unexplored.
Also! When people hear the word rainforest, they usually think of the jungles of the tropics, but did you know that there are rainforests right here in the USA?! On the West Coast of the USA and Canada is what’s known as a temperate rainforest, stretching from Kodiak Island in Alaska to Northern California. Temperate rainforests are also found on the southern tip of South America, in Australia, Northwestern Europe, and Northeastern Asia.
Probably the coolest forest, though, is the taiga. Taiga refers to the biome found just below the tundra at the Earth’s north pole. There’s not really southern taiga because Antarctica is surrounded by oceans, but the Arctic region is surrounded on a few sides by North America and Asia, and the land below the Arctic Circle is home to the taiga. Taiga is characterized by thick forests of evergreen, mostly coniferous trees, and weather patterns that can most easily be described as tundra-lite. Winters are long and severe, summers short and mild. Despite the harsh living conditions, though, the taiga is still home to plenty of awesome plants and animals. The Asian taiga is home to the Siberian Tiger and the Amur Leopard, two of the rarest big cats in the world. The taiga also contains approximately one third of all the trees in the entire world, and produces about one quarter of the oxygen we breathe.
Basically what I’m saying, people, is that forests are totally amazing and are probably the best thing on this entire planet of Earth. With the way things are going, it’s likely that the entire concept of forests is going to radically be changing in the next 50 years or so, so take the opportunity now to experience forests as they are, and maybe participate in some of the ways that people are trying to preserve and protect them.
You can learn more about the United Nations’ Day of Forests efforts here.