Healthy forests are gifts that keep on giving
Have you ever been in the forest and felt a sense of peace? If so, then you know the importance of the forest to human health. But the forest is more than just a place to get away from it all; it is a vital ecosystem.
A healthy forest provides many benefits to both humans and wildlife. A healthy forest provides habitat for wildlife, cleans the air and filters water. Home to a variety of species, forests play a critical role in sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to slow the pace of climate change. Forests are integral parts of our planet.
If you look closely, the forest is full of different vegetation, even on logs (Photo by Mariam Qureshi)
Not all healthy forests look the same because there are many different types of forest. But picture this: Healthy forests have trees of mixed age and dead trees, which provide habitat for countless species, from woodpeckers to fungi. As well, a healthy forest can look like one that has few invasive species. As these trees decompose, they release nutrients back into the soil. A forest containing a mixed-aged and dead trees is a great way to recognize a healthy forest Having a variety of different tree species also make forests more resilient.
Unfortunately, many forests around the world are threatened. Deforestation, overuse, fire suppression, garbage, invasive species and more extreme weather from climate change are just some of the threats that can harm a healthy forest.
Fungi are fun to examine. They can be of different shapes and colours and some are associated with certain tree species (Photo by Mariam Qureshi)
It is important to protect our forests so that they can continue to provide valuable benefits to wildlife and humans, but to want to protect them we have to appreciate them. It doesn’t take much to appreciate forests. For example, I enjoy walking through the neighbourhood forested parks and trails when I need to go somewhere. Whenever I needed to pick up something small from the grocery store, I walk through the forest, and the more I walk, the more I learn the various forested paths. This not only reduces my gas bill, it allows me to breathe in the fresh air and enjoy gorgeous views.
It’s important to stay on designated paths to avoid trampling vegetation and causing soil erosion. Soil eroding into streams and rivers can cause significant problems, such as damage to aquatic habitats.
This year, my plan is to enjoy a walk in the forest every season, observe the changes in colour, and try new activities and see new species.
Me in a forest and my depiction of the winter scenery (Photo by Mariam Qureshi)
A forest to me is always refreshing, no matter the time of the year. By understanding the importance of a healthy forest and taking action to protect them, including supporting conservation organizations like the Nature Conservancy of Canada, we can help ensure a bright future for both ourselves and generations to come. Here is a video of some of my forest pictures taken in and around Edmonton, Alberta.