Macro and Micro Green. Celebrating the International Year of Forests
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AbstractThe rapid rate of climate change is one of the biggest threats for the environment. Forests are both the cause and the victims of this change, as most of the global warming can be attributed to carbon dioxide emissions from global deforestation which, in its turn, endangers trees. Natural ecosystems suffer the negative consequences of temperature increase, since it is overcoming their innate ability to adapt: if climate changes gradually, trees are able to adjust. On the contrary, extreme weather phenomena are unpredictable and uncontrollable: storms, heatwaves, summer droughts and windy periods have become more frequent and intense, raising the probability of forest fires. Since forests carry out a fundamental role for life on Earth, it is important to preserve them from the effects of climate change, in order to avoid severe socio-economic and environmental consequences . In the Green Paper published in March 2010 the European Commission stresses the importance of Forest Protection and Information in the EU and it identifies the main functions performed by forests. First of all, forests fulfill a protection role: in many mountain areas, where tourist resorts and infrastructures are always more frequent, they protect settlements from snow avalanches, rock fall, landslides and floods. By lowering wind speed, forests prevent soil erosion and they even contribut to its fertility and productivity. Therefore, tree cover protects moist soils from sunbeams preventing them from drying out and so it halts desertification. Forests play also a purification role for water resources as they maintain water quality by filtering and absorbing pollutants and reducing flooding. A further function is to conserve biodiversity. One of the most dramatic effects of deforestation is the loss of habitat for a great variety of living organisms. Ecosystems with their tree species, insects and invertebrates provide us with food, raw materials as well as resources for medicines. As climate regulators, forests “play a major role in the atmospheric circulation and the water cycle on land and may have a role in mitigating regional climate, desertification and water security problems ”. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are very high and many human activities contribure to increase them. In this connection, forests are an important resource because of their capacity to absorb greenhouse gases and other impurities, such as dust, ash, smoke and pollen, from the atmosphere and store them in biomass and the soil. Acting as air-pollution filters trees basically contribute to decrease speed of global warming and climate change. Finally, as part our cultural heritage, forests have an aesthetic, economic and emotional role since they provide nice landscapes suitable for amenity purposes, they promote tourism and contribute to health and well-being.