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Why Forests Matter

Explaining Deforestation

Why are we losing forests so quickly?

Because deforestation is often an economic problem: local communities have no other option but to cut down their forests. It’s a tragedy, because the world’s forests are worth so much more than that.

Stand For Trees lets you – yes, you – help them to change that.

The short version

Deforestation is an economic problem. Stand For Trees helps to solve it by paying people to keep trees standing. We use a UN mechanism called REDD+ to put a value on the amount of carbon the trees store, and everything we do is independently verified before we offer it to you.

If that’s enough for you, you can protect a forest right now, here. But if you’d like to know more about how deforestation happens and why forests are important, read on below.

Why deforestation happens

Deforestation happens when it’s worth more to convert forest land to other uses than to keep the forest standing.

The most obvious example is the one you’ve probably already heard of. Economic incentives and industrial agriculture can cause large-scale deforestation, even against the wishes of local communities.

But sometimes there is simply no choice.

Communities often cut trees down for charcoal because they have no other source of fuel. Or, they may only be able to earn money from informal mining, illegal logging, or another activity that destroys forests.

People that live near forests are also often farmers. Subsistence farmers grow food crops for daily life. And small-scale commercial farmers produce commodities for export and trade.

Unfortunately, their lands are often bad for farming. Soils are poor, conditions are harsh, and crops don’t grow well. This means yields are low. And that means locals can’t grow enough food, earn enough money to support themselves – or both.

Technology and training could help solve many of these problems. But rural farmers usually don’t have access to them. And then, because their yields stay low, their only option is to clear more and more forest so they can farm on a larger area.

Here, deforestation may help to improve the short-term situation – farmers can at least grow enough food for themselves. But in the long term, it leads to land degradation – meaning farmers need more land again. That creates a vicious cycle of more and more deforestation and degradation. And to make matters worse, chopping down forests for short-term benefits means we’re losing everything else that forests do.

What Forests Do

Forests, and especially tropical forests, also provide a lot of value to humans. Among other things, they:

  • Regulate and filter water
  • Clean the air
  • Moderate water flow
  • Improve agricultural conditions like soil quality
  • Help mitigate or prevent natural disasters like erosion and landslides

These are called ecosystem services. Some of them, like flood control or supporting agriculture, may even be worth actual money. (Here’s an example: crops bring in income. If the ecosystem is helping farmers to grow more crops, that’s worth money, too.)

But all of these services rely on the ecosystem functioning properly. And that means it needs to stay intact. Replanting a forest after it’s gone won’t work.

Why is that? New forests, although valuable in their own way, take decades to become this rich and this complex. There are a variety of reasons for this. Biodiversity levels are much lower, many animals don’t find them ideal habitat, they don’t provide as many services, they aren’t as resilient, and so on.

So the only way to make sure the planet’s ecosystems survive in the future is to save them now. Because once they’re gone, they aren’t coming back.

How Stand For Trees helps to stop deforestation

Like the crops example above, we can put a price on quite a few of these benefits through economics. But setting a price is difficult. Ecosystem services are different in each area, and there are no standard markets or tools for most of them yet.

What’s more, there are many non-financial values that can’t be counted, or that are quite literally priceless. For example, how do you price the relief of knowing spectacular landscapes are protected, that habitats for endangered species are preserved, and that species have a fighting chance at survival? You can’t.

Except for carbon.

For carbon, there is REDD+. The UN created this model in 2007 to change the economics of deforestation. It lets us value trees, hectares of forest, and even entire landscapes by the amount of carbon they store, and then pay that to the people who otherwise might have no choice but to cut down the forest. In other words, it lets us value forests by their ability to fight today’s greatest crisis: climate change.

Using REDD+ to save forests

All our projects use REDD+ to put a price on the carbon stored in a threatened forest. They receive payments for keeping the forest standing and the carbon in the ground.

Some projects then pay communities or individuals directly. Others fund local NGOs which do a variety of work in the area. These could be:

  • patrols to stop illegal logging
  • training for farmers to help them grow more crops
  • creating alternative livelihoods that don’t depend on deforestation, like ecotourism. See the livelihoods page for more on this.
  • in some cases, even addressing large-scale deforestation by improving land ownership. This helps locals avoid having to sell their land to businesses that would likely clear it.

These activities are verified at every step of the way – before we can offer any carbon credits for sale. Which means that money going to these projects goes to support activities that successfully protect forests.

But where does this money come from?

The answer is you.

Whether you’re a person, a responsible business, or an official serious about climate change, Stand For Trees helps you become part of the solution.

When you buy a Stand For Trees certificate, you’re not just donating to a good cause. You’re physically saving a tonne of carbon stored in a forest, and making it more valuable alive than dead.

And that means you are helping to create a positive alternative to deforestation. Because in this fight, every little bit counts.

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