Forests: Source of Life: Protect Them:
Tropical Rainforests have existed on earth for hundreds of millions of years. Today they are on fragments of the once super-continent of Pangea/Gondwana of the Mesozoic era.
Forests have sustained life on earth from time immemorial. They supply the most invaluable resource that we need on a daily basis to survive, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. They also supply us with food, medicine, energy, shelter, wood & non-wood products. All species of plant life are used in some way by humans and wildlife.
In addition to representing a source of economic development, forests and trees provide a way for humans to express cultural and spiritual values.
Forests are home to many forms of life and play an essential role environmentally, in particular in the maintenance of our biodiversity, conserving soil and water and stabilizing our climate. Forests also sustain and are linked to and help preserve other ecosystems, from our plains and savannahs to wetlands and coral reefs.
The destruction of our tropical rainforest is the most serious ecological catastrophe of our time and it could become, of all time. Forests play a critical role in climatic conditions. They reduce carbon dioxide and help to stabilize our climate. Continued destruction of our forests and excessive man-made pollution has caused the present alarming changes in our climate. Sea-level has risen and continues to rise; record- breaking heat; drought; excessive rain; floods and death in countries and in areas that had never seen this before.
Scientists say that the problem is that so many things are changing at the same time, a chain reaction. Should we care? Experts say that burning just one acre of rainforest spews (400,000) four hundred thousand pounds of carbon dioxide into the air.
Indiscriminate quarrying and logging are serious problems. Up to one third of forest-cover is also removed to make way for loggers. When tracks are cut through rainforest, this allows for even larger tracts of forest to be burned and more trees cut down. Worse, loggers are followed by squatter, clear-cutting, together with slash and burn “agriculture”. This is wasted, one-term agriculture, for soils are nutrient poor. The land becomes barren, squatters move on to compound the problem.
We all live downstream. The destruction of forests in our hills and mountains means large-scale flooding of villages, towns, and agricultural lands, loss of livestock, food crops, inconvenience and hardship to people; loss of work of work and time at very high economic costs. With climate change a reality, our NorthernRange forests protect us from the onslaught of storms and hurricanes.
Our watersheds and forests in our Northern Range are vital also for our water supply. Destroy our forests and we loose our groundwater and reservoirs. Once lost, they can never be replaced. Industries, agriculture, people, need water. As in some other countries, will we then have to import water at obscenely high costs adding a further burden to the escalating costs in our daily lives?
Our forests are important in many different ways. For thousands of years, plants have served as the basis of traditional medicinal remedies in the world. W.H.O estimates that approximately 75% of the global population relies on traditional medicines for their primary health care. Plant products are also a significant part of the pharmaceutical regimes of the developed world. Active ingredients found in 25% of prescription drugs are found in plants (FAO: 2007). Here in Trinidad & Tobago many of our people continue to use plants in their natural form as traditional medicines.
Our forests, vital to the stability of our atmosphere and climate are extremely important for yet another reason. Few realize that the Tropics, of which Trinidad & Tobago are a part, are the earth’s richest natural reserves. One fifth of all the birds and plants on earth evolved in the AmazonBasin. (NationalAcademy of Sciences). Trinidad & Tobago has a rich biodiversity and our forests are a “goldmine” for nature-based tourism if used wisely.
We have 400 species of birds: 620 known, different species of butterflies, more per square mile than anywhere else in the world: 99 species of mammals: 70 species of reptiles: 2300 know, different types of flowers, shrubs and plants: 181 known species of orchids, some unique to us and found nowhere else in the world, and myriads of interesting insects. The greatest value of our wildlife is in its contribution to people and the quality of the environment. Nature-based tourism will greatly benefit everyone in Trinidad & Tobago, both in small communities and to the Nation at large.
WE MUST NOT “DESTROY THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGG”.
Molly R. Gaskin
President: The Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust