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Peri-urban forest reserves in Uganda

treesMore trees for a cooler earth

Each one of us has a story to tell about how important trees are to us. Many regard them as a source of medicine, food, timber, firewood and others but few people know that they contribute to the wellbeing of the planet.

Trees are a very important source of wealth because they provide timber, energy, food, medicines, and pulp among others and hence the need to invest in tree farming. It is thus prudent that man should invest in trees to create wealth. For that matter, the government has created forest reserves where tree planting is practiced.

Individual farmers have been encouraged to plant trees alongside government reserves and expect to reap big. Some peri-urban forest reserves have been created in and near municipalities like Kyahi in Mbarara and Ruti in Mbarara municipality.

Levi Etwodu, the plantation manager for Mbarara area that comprises Isingiro, Kiruhura, Bushenyi, Ntungamo and Mbarara districts, says forest reserves create wealth among the people that live near them by providing employment during planting, maintenance and harvesting. “In the last two years, we have created employment for people living around Bugamba and Rwoho forest reserves to a tune of about Shs2bn while planting trees under the carbon project funded by the World Bank,” he says.

This year, a section of Bugamba Forest Reserve is projected to contribute about Shs500m to the national coffers. Trees are very important for balancing climate as they are the biggest absorbers of carbon and green gas emissions. Forests are a home to many animal species and thus the need to protect them for conservation like in Bushenyi, and the Katoha Kitomi forest reserve in Buwheju and Bunyaruguru counties.

This reserve is also a tourist destination for its rare snake and butterfly species.

Trees are primary producers of oxygen and absorbers of carbon dioxide. To maintain this balance, man needs to protect and maintain the forest cover existing worldwide. The earth’s climate has undergone very many changes, some natural and others influenced by man’s activities like deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, and the emission of greenhouse gases. Natural causes include hurricanes, floods, cyclones, desert storms and melting glaciers among others.

Human activities like burning of fossil fuel and increasing concentration of greenhouse gasses have led to a gradual warming of the earth’s atmosphere and depletion of the ozone layer. Forests provide refuge to wild life and reduce flooding while the woods store carbon in the woody components of trees.

Forests and wood products can best be used to offset human induced emissions of greenhouse gases.

Forests are good absorbers of carbon, which augurs well for climatic change.

Mitigation of carbon and greenhouse gases stocks would be well kept under control. The reduction of forest cover does not only increase the emission of carbon in the ozone layer but also affects the making of rain, protection of soil cover, promotes soil erosion and silting of river beds, lakes and other water bodies.

In Brazil, the Amazon forest is facing serious pressure from encroachers, while the Congo forests are under constant attack by illegal sawyers and those in Liberia have not been spared. A UN study has estimated that by 2040, two thirds of the Congo basin forest will have disappeared if the present rate at which the forest is being exploited is not checked.

The end result is that a lot of pressure will be on the biodiversity that include among others 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of animals – 700 of fish and 400 species of animals.

Role of forests

A new study by Australia National University has shown that untouched natural forests store three times more carbon dioxide than previously estimated and 69 per cent more than plantation forests in the role of climatic change. Green carbon occurs in natural forests, brown carbon in industrialised forests or plantations, grey in fossil fuel and blue carbon in oceans. Forests are responsible for absorption of green and brown carbon while oceans help with the blue carbon. The study has also found that natural forests are more resilient to climatic change and disturbances than plantations.

Protection of natural forests is advantageous in two ways; it maintains a large carbon sink and stops the release of the forest-stored carbon. Protecting the carbon in natural forests is preventing an additional emission of carbon from what we get from burning fossil fuels according, to the study.

Trees are composed of 50 per cent carbon and they represent the best ways to extract carbon dioxide from space. Forests are very instrumental in arresting extremely bad weather like typhoons, hurricanes, decrease flooding, decrease drought, act as wind breakers, reduce surface runoffs and retain basins. Trees are also believed to reduce melting of glaciers. Environmentalists believe that planting 100 million trees could reduce the amount of carbon by an estimated 18 million tonnes.

Forests help re-charge ground water and sustain stream flows. Snow peaks on mountains in Africa like on Mt Rwenzori in Uganda and Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Kenya are examples of global warming effects.

Role of forests as emitters of carbon

Forests can also be a source of carbon release into space. Amazonian evergreen forests account for about 10 percent of the world’s terrestrial primary productivity and 10 per cent of the carbon stores in ecosystems. Amazonian forests are estimated to have accumulated 0.62 to 0.37 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year between 1975 and 1996.

Fires related to Amazonian deforestation, have made Brazil one of the top greenhouse gas producers, producing about 300 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. 200 million of these come from logging and burning in the Amazon.

Despite this, Brazil is listed as one of the lowest per capita (rank 124) in carbon dioxide emissions according to the US Department of Energy’s carbon dioxide Information Analysis Centre. There is a school of thought by research scientists of the National Academy of Sciences in Australia, that in snowy latitudes, forests may actually increase local warming by absorbing solar energy that would otherwise be reflected back into space.

However, tropical forests help cool the planet in two ways. By absorbing carbon dioxide, and drawing soil moisture which is released into air forming clouds.

The moisture is eventually released into the atmosphere and forms clouds. While it is important to plant forests and preserve the existing ones, it is also imperative to guard against ills like forest fires, deforestation, and illegal logging. This should be done to reduce the potential forests have in becoming sources of carbon dioxide emission.

The end result is, we should aggressively plant trees if we are save mother earth for posterity. “Plant, plant, plant more trees” should be a slogan for all governments and environmentally-oriented people.

Source – Monitor Online

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