FIRE: Habitat loss and climate change

Teacher Background

Habitat Loss and Climate Change

Why do we need forests?

Forests are important to us from the air that we breathe to the wood that we need. Forests provide homes for an incredible number of diverse animal species as well as provide a way of making a living for many humans. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), over 2 billion people rely on forests for shelter, livelihoods, water, food and fuel, and 300 million people actually live in forests.

Think how the forest has affected your life today. Did you eat nuts for breakfast? Is your desk made of wood? Have you been writing on paper? Did you blow your nose
on a tissue? Or read a magazine?

But despite our dependence on forests, we are allowing them to disappear at an alarming rate. Every minute in the world an area of forest about the size of 20 football fields is destroyed.

Forests and climate change

Our Earth’s climate is changing and top scientists around the world agree that people’s activities are the main cause. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases keep the earth warm, by trapping the heat from the sun in the same way that a greenhouse does. Without these gases we would all freeze. When people burn fuels with carbon in them (oil, gas and coal) to run power stations, cars, buses, and airplanes, a lot of extra dirty CO2 gets dumped into the air. Too much of this heattrapping gas is now raising the earth’s average temperatures to dangerous levels.

Fire and forests

About 30% of the world’s surface is forestland. After oceans, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon dioxide. Forests help fight climate change by sucking CO2 from the air during photosynthesis. But what happens when a forest is hit by fire? Forest fires literally eat trees. When flames burn trees, wood smoke is released. This smoke contains CO2, which is then returned to the Earth’s atmosphere during fire.

If trees like to take in carbon dioxide and store it in their bodies that means the more trees we have on earth the less carbon in the air.

So if you plant a tree today, tree-planting equals carbon busting!