The essential role of forests in people’s health

The Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO) joined in the celebration of the International Day of Forests, proclaimed in November 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly, to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of all types of forests that exist on our planet. This year, focusing on people’s health under the motto ‘Healthy Forests, Healthy People’.

There are many goods and services that forests provide and all of them, directly or indirectly, contribute to health: air quality; the hydrological cycle; The Biodiversity; soil conservation and the fight against desertification; the mitigation of climate change or the provision of natural resources.

The world’s forests are home to more than 50,000 species of plants (more than 6,000 species in Spain alone) with what this means not only because of their contribution to global biodiversity, but also because of their ability to offer people food, medicine, fibre, materials and other resources of plant origin with a low carbon footprint, renewable and that can be managed sustainably.

However, the different threats that forests have on a global scale such as deforestation should not be forgotten; the degradation derived from pollution; biodiversity loss and climate change.

In the Spanish case, there are very specific threats and fortunately they do not have to do with deforestation, but with less visible causes such as rural abandonment, ignorance of forest ownership or the lack of qualified workers.

In this sense, MITECO, in collaboration with the public administrations and entities of the forestry sector, has completed important reforms and established the strategic bases to take care of the forests and value them.

Finally, on International Day of Forests and in line with Spain’s firmly declared ambition in protecting forests, the fight against climate change and the protection and conservation of biodiversity, the European regulation that is about to be published and that tries to stop deforestation and forest degradation caused by the consumption of certain products. This new regulation imposes requirements for the introduction or export in the European Union market of raw materials such as cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, rubber and wood.

The integration of health aspects in environmental policies is therefore crucial in a society that is aware that a healthy environment favours people’s own health.