Environmental Issues

Ecotourism Helps to Protect Forests
from Deforestation

What comes to mind when thinking of a forest? The chirping of birds, the buzz of trees, the sunbeams … or perhaps the crisp clean air? When one is able to actually step into the forest, a feeling of mysterious power that is unfelt in the city. Usually accompanied by a feeling of refreshment. However, in the current situation, deforestation has become a serious problem in the world. In this issue, we will introduce how ecotourism can contribute to the prevention of deforestation.

What is the current state of deforestation?

We often hear that deforestation is decreasing, but how much forest is lost every year in the world? According to FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020, the total forest area in the world today is about 4 billion ha. But the average annual forest area disappeared between 1990 and 2020 by 7.8 million ha. In the latter 10 years (2010 to 2020), the lost area is limited to 4.7 million ha on average annually. This lost area shows the net value (the area of ​​deforestation minus the area of ​​forests), so if forests are lost at this pace, the world will be deforested at the latest 90 years later. It will be a calculation that will end up. Especially in South America, where the Amazon spreads, the area of ​​deforestation from 1990 to 2020 was the largest compared to other areas, and it is said that 5.1 million hectares were lost annually.

Regarding the reasons for such deforestation, the United Nations Forest Strategic Plan 2017-2030 adopted by the United Nations Economic Council in April 2017 includes agriculture, energy, mining, and transportation policies in addition to poverty reduction and urban development. The plan highlights the fact that deforestation is not just a problem in the forestry sector, but also a socio-economic problem. Citing that the priority is given to land use, which provides more immediate financial benefits and makes this a challenging item to overcome. In other words, the social structure that people have created and the need to be able to generate some kind of livelihood has contributed greatly to such a large-scale deforestation.

Why forests are important

In the UN Forest Strategic Plan 2017-2030, the importance of forests is as follows:

 (1) About 1.6 billion people, approximately 25% of the world’s population, depend on the forests for food, livelihood, employment and income. Forests are indispensable for humankind, sustainable development, and the health of the earth. 

(2) Forests provide important ecosystem services such as wood, food, fuel, shelter, and help to conserve soil and water. Last but not least, the trees in the forest work to clean the air and provide us with a clean, seemingly endless supply of new oxygen.

(3) Forests have important cultural and spiritual value in many areas. Keep in mind that forests are home to a variety of flora and fauna. 

One of the six global forest goals set out in the UN Forest Strategic plan is to “strengthen forest-based economic, social and environmental benefits, including improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent people.” The continued development of ecotourism activities is mentioned as a measure to help achieve that goal.

What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism can feel as though it is a complicated concept, though it is really quite straightforward. According to TIES (The International Ecotourism Society) defines ecotourism as “Responsible travel to the natural environment that protects the environment, maintains the lives of locals, and educates travellers about nature.”

To establish a form of tourism which makes the best use of local resources such as nature, history, and culture. To protect and conserve based on proper management so that the tourism activity in itself does not damage those resources.

 It is a concept of tourism which aims to realise the ripple effect on the local economy by the sound preservation of local resources, and aims at the fusion of resource protection + establishment of tourism industry + regional promotion of small communities. By doing so, the purpose is to provide travelers with an opportunity to interact with attractive local and natural resources, to stabilise the lives of the local community, and to protect nature.

Ecotourism means that tourists learn about the nature of the area and the profits are returned to the local community to manage and develop sustainable tourist destinations while preserving the nature of the area. In other words, it is a form of tourism which benefits not only travelers but also the local people of the area, the nature and culture of that area. As more and more people walk in the forest it is worth mentioning that in Europe, so-called ‘forest bathing’ has a relaxing effect and is said to help relieve stress and reduce fatigue. This is one more reason as to why travelers should learn about nature. Not only can one make fun memories, but the advantage of being physically and mentally healthy as well.

If you would like to know more about ecotourism, please see this article as well.

What kind of forest-related ecotourism is there? Eco-tours are tours based on the idea of ​​eco-tourism. Let’s use Borneo, Malaysia as an example for ecotourism. One can learn about the problems facing Borneo’s forests through a variety of activities, including tree planting activities with the locals. A portion of the tour fees are returned to the local people as income, thus contributing to the local economy. 

What would happen to the world without ecotourism?

Ecotourism is a way of tourism that benefits travelers, the people of the region, and the environment. But what kind of impact could occur if ecotourism initiatives were not in place? 

Ecotourism activities are currently being severely damaged by the coronavirus. It is said that tens of thousands of people working in the ecotourism sector around the world are at risk of job loss. Many households that have had employment in ecotourism related activities as their main source of income are now suffering the loss of their living wage. In order to compensate for this monetary loss, many have found themselves in a situation where they have had to collect resources from ecosystems in an unsustainable way. In addition to this, illegal deforestation is increasing due to the absence of workers monitoring the areas in national parks due to lockdown as well as the associated loss in wages. From this information, it is possible to see that ecotourism plays an important role in ensuring the balance between nature conservation and economic activity for the region.

Ecotourism activities contribute to the conservation of healthy forests. If it is desired to enjoy the beautiful nature, or rather to leave the beautiful scenery in the future as it is, take an active part in eco-tours and make fun memories while preserving the beautiful nature during upcoming travels.

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