"On this first International Day of Forests and the Tree, I urge governments, businesses and all sectors of society to commit to reducing deforestation, preventing forest degradation, reducing poverty and promoting sustainable livelihoods for all forest-dependent peoples".
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day of Forests, 21 March 2013
The Amazonian rainforest is the largest continuous rainforest ecosystem in the world. The region encompasses more than six million square kilometers and includes territory belonging to nine nations. Despite its vast size, it faces environmental pressure that threatens its very existence. One of the primary threats is deforestation. UN Photo/George Love
Forests cover one third of the Earth's land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people - including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures - depend on forests for their livelihood.
Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Forests also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent populations.
They play a key role in our battle against climate change. Forests contribute to the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and humidity in the air. They protect watersheds, which supply fresh water to rivers.
Yet despite all of these priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, we are destroying the very forests we need to survive. Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate - 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.