Forest Restoration Mitigates Climate Change For The Benefit Of Nature And People | WWF Malaysia

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Forest Restoration Mitigates Climate Change For The Benefit Of Nature And People

The International Day of Forests is celebrated in March every year to spread awareness of the importance of forests. This year’s celebration is themed, “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being,” encourages people to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees to help mitigate climate change.
 
Forest restoration refers to the process of restoring the ecological functions of an area that has become degraded due to human or natural causes, and to bring benefits back to human, wildlife and nature. The actions may include simple steps such as planting of trees, to a large scale ecosystem rehabilitation programme.
 
Nowadays, forest restoration has generated a lot of attention and is being implemented almost everywhere.  Under the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021 - 2025), the Sarawak government aims to plant 35 million trees, which represents about one-third of the 100 million Tree Planting Campaign by Malaysia. Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) is the lead agency in the forest restoration project, which requires solid cooperation from all the relevant sectors. From June 2019 until December 2020, a total of 10,452,607 trees from 50 species, have been planted in Sarawak, over a cumulative area of ​​9,732.14 hectares. Looks like we are on track to achieving this target.
 
“Our forests occur in different levels of intactness and degradation. Undeniably, degraded patches occur within our Permanent Forest Estates and Totally Protected Areas.” said Dr Jason Hon, WWF-Malaysia Head of Sarawak Conservation Programme.
 
He added, “These degraded areas must be restored, to improve connectivity for wildlife and nature’s resilience, and to provide ecosystem services such as water provision and climate regulation. Let’s take cue from this year’s theme, to chart an ambitious path towards forest restoration for the well-being of human and nature. All parties from government, private sectors, civil societies and the public should play their roles.”
 
"Forests enhance the atmospheric moisture which then provide us rain that gives us our water. We are fortunate to live in the tropics which is blessed with abundant forests and rain which give us water. These forests help regulate our climate. Degrading them will lead to climate change "
 
WWF-Malaysia is collaborating with Jagoi Area Development Committee (JADC) to plant 1,000 native tree species in the secondary forest of the Jagoi Heritage Forest, Bau, Sarawak, where 1.8 hectares of degraded and landslide areas were restored. The project was funded by Peterson and Control Union, and the 1,000 saplings was sponsored by FDS. This effort is leveraging on the Forest Department Sarawak’s drive on forest landscape restoration.
 
“This Heritage Forest does not only provide the needs of the local community, but it is also a popular hiking spot for the public. It is through the efforts of the community that the public can have such beautiful mountains and forests for their enjoyment. Over time, some areas have become degraded and this project aims to improve and restore the mountain’s forest cover.” said Professor Dr Gabriel Tonga Noweg, JADC chairman .
 
“Being one of the five sites in Malaysia that applied for the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Green List of Protected and Conserved areas, we hope to demonstrate the efforts of the Bung Jagoi community as stewards of the forests in Sarawak. Successful listing would be a great recognition of these efforts” he added.
 
Since 2017, WWF-Malaysia is also partnering with FDS to facilitate the planting of 11,000 gaharu (Aquilaria microcarpa) seedlings with the communities from Rumah Manggat in Ulu Sungai Menyang, Batang Ai, Sarawak. This project which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, not only contributes to the restoration of 5.5 hectares degraded land in that area, but also to keep the forested landscape where orang-utans live, intact. The project provides additional  income through the production of gaharu tea.
 
Tree planting to support forest restoration goals is no longer an activity exclusively for gardeners, farmers, or green-fingered folks. Whoever you are, wherever you live and however limited or abundant your resources are, planting a tree in the right place is a good thing to do.
 
But, we should always remember that tree planting is not simply a case of filling every available space with trees. Make sure you plant native species that match our climate and soil environment. The more local the species you choose, the higher the success rate for it to grow. Native species help local wildlife to live and thrive while exotic species will bring risk of disease, competition and eventually destroy the existing ecosystem.
 
While reforestation is a commendable effort to bring back what was lost, there are growing concerns that some are jumping into the bandwagon just for sake of fulfilling their green or sustainable pledges. We must reflect on: Why forest restoration is needed? Why have we lost or degraded our forests? What else have we lost in terms of wildlife and ecosystem services that forests have provided us with? How has forest loss led to climate change?
 
Nevertheless, all is not lost. We must reflect on the past and learn from our short-comings. We must conserve our existing healthy forests and prevent them from being degraded or destroyed. Only then, we shall put in efforts in carrying out reforestation. In line with this year’s theme, let’s put our hopes and actions towards a recovery path on restoration, for the well-being of nature and people.

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