Southeast Asia’s forests make up nearly 15% of the world’s tropical forests and are home to some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. The rainforests in Southeast Asia are some of the oldest on Earth, and most of them are found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. They offer many services to us, such as providing food and habitat to animals, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, protecting waterways, preventing flooding, supporting local economies, and many other benefits too great to ignore.
However, with the world’s growing pace of consumption that is hard to match, coupled with the increasing demand for space, extensive deforestation has threatened the whole region of Southeast Asia’s forests to make way for other commodities requiring land use. The clearing of these forests sees consequences such as the extinction of flora and fauna, climate change from the loss of vegetation, flooding, and increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As the effects caused by deforestation can be devastating beyond imagination, more organisations and communities have come together to strategise on how the world can fight to save forests by making more informed decisions.
With more human activities driving the acceleration of climate change, we are all experiencing warmer temperatures than ever before, of which have even destroyed certain habitats for wildlife. It is thus of utmost importance that we preserve our forests so that we can sustain life on Earth and keep it livable for future generations to come.
The Importance of Forests
With Southeast Asia covering a vast majority of the global forest population, it is extremely crucial for us to prevent it from becoming a deforestation hotspot. On top of being vital because they provide us with the oxygen we need to survive, the forests also provide human beings and animals with other incredible resources we would otherwise not have if they were to all disappear.
Deforestation hurts global food production as a whole. With Southeast Asia being a hub for food exports, we require vegetation and wild animal-based foods from the forests to sustain our food industries. Not to mention, the loss of our forests also means accelerating climate change which could affect food security through yield declines seen in increased prices, reduced nutrient quality and supply chain disruptions.
Additionally, for many rural communities and indigenous tribes, the forests that they live in serve as their main source of food supply with an abundance of berries, nuts, mushrooms, wild animals and more. Forests also play a role in food preparation as they need wood fuel for cooking.
Filtering the Air and Water
Forests help to protect all living beings by filtering and cleaning the air of pollution. In addition to absorbing carbon dioxide to pump out oxygen, trees also remove harmful pollutants from the air and purify it for us to breathe in.
Trees and other vegetation also improve our water quality by reducing soil erosion, decreasing stormwater runoff — which refers to rain water on the ground surface — as well as filtering out sediments and chemical pollutants.
Not only do forests protect the health of our water bodies, they also contribute to maintaining Earth’s water cycle. Though evaporation from water bodies mainly account for the moisture in our atmosphere, transpiration from plants and trees still plays an important role in influencing our water cycle.
Protecting Us From Natural Disasters
Trees and plants found in forests prevent landslides by holding the soil in place and reducing the force of rain on the ground through their roots. Forests also keep us safe from natural disasters like storms and tsunamis by acting as a natural buffer.
Producing Ingredients Used in Modern Medicine
Many tropical plants in forests are a source of ingredients that are commonly used in modern medicine to help treat malaria, cancer and other illnesses.
Natural Habitat for Wildlife Species
Forests are home to a variety of flora and fauna and without these natural habitats, many species face extinction, one of which being the Sumatran tiger. The loss of these forests also result in the migration of many animals into human communities, increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases being transmitted.
There are a plethora of good reasons as to why forests need to be protected, such as providing us with a place for recreational activities and respecting significant cultures that hold spiritual value in sacred parts of the forest. The rate of deforestation is increasing, especially in Southeast Asia, with a 1.2% loss of our forests in the region annually.
The Need for Responsible Forestry
Ending deforestation is a shared responsibility amongst human communities across the globe, and we can all make better daily decisions as well as adopt strategies that aim to preserve our forests. Whether it’s raising awareness, donating to non-profit organisations, using recycled products or reducing your meat consumption, we can all be part of a solution that makes a difference.
As a firm believer in environmental sustainability, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) Sinar Mas is committed to fulfilling its sustainability vision to combat climate change, maintain wildlife diversity and protect coastal communities. Going the extra mile, Asia Pulp and Paper also strives to do more in the future and expand their scope of commitments to sustainability. Read more about Asia Pulp and Paper’s sustainability roadmap vision and join in the fight to protect our forests today.