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Forests: the functions of a heritage to be preserved


There are about four billion hectares of forest on our planet. We are faced with an inestimable heritage that hosts two thirds of terrestrial species, performing essential functions that not everyone knows. Let's find out together.

Protective function

Forests play a protective role, safeguarding built-up areas, roads and infrastructure from avalanches and rock falls. The wooded terrain also absorbs rain, limiting soil erosion and regulating thehydrogeological balance.

Naturalistic and environmental function

Forests preserve biodiversity, constituting different habitats suited to the vital needs of many animal and plant species, including some rare and threatened ones. The forest heritage also plays a role of stouching CO2. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees transform the carbon dioxide contained in the air into organic carbon which is incorporated into the wood. At the same time, they emit oxygen into the atmosphere. Forests thus contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases, the abatement of particulates and other atmospheric pollutants as well as the reduction ofnoise pollution.

Tourist-recreational function

Forest areas are spaces that allow you to enjoy nature in your free time, guaranteeing psychological and physical well-being. Thanks to a dense network of educational and hiking trails, they allow you to deepen and learn about sports activities or simply to relax, carving out brackets of inner peace.

Productive function

In addition to ensuring the supply of timber, the forests offer a whole range of valuable products: from mushrooms to truffles, from small fruits to edible herbs.

Forests in Italy

The Ministry for Agricultural, Food, Forestry and Tourism Policies recently released the first Report on the state of forests and the forest sector in Italy. From the data of the report it emerges that the Italian forest heritage consists of about 9 million hectares of forests and almost 2 million hectares of other wooded lands, mainly represented by shrubs, scrub and scrub.

Overall, forest areas cover more than 35% of the national territory. In some regions they occupy about half of the surface. These are Trentino-Alto Adige, Liguria, Tuscany, Umbria and Sardinia. Puglia and Sicily, on the other hand, are the Regions with the lowest rate of forest areas.

Over the last century, the forest area has increased steadily. However, a slowdown has recently occurred, presumably linked to the decrease in the availability of suitable areas. The variety of trees in Italy appears quite rich: beech woods, oak, downy and English oak woods, chestnut woods, holm oaks and spruce forests dominate. The most common species are beech, hornbeam, downy oak, chestnut, Turkey oak, larch, spruce and holm oak.

As in the rest of the world, forests also play one role in our country environmental function basic: every year in Italy these natural areas remove about 46.2 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

On the employment front, the Italian forestry sector, understood as silviculture and forest activity, employs over 100,000 people. These habitats are also a growing source of wealth, ranging from mushroom picking to recreational activities.

There is also room forcircular economy. According to the report, more than 1.8 million tons of used wood were collected and recycled in 2017 alone. This type of activity generates a turnover of 2.8 billion euros, offering approximately 30,000 jobs.

The essential role that forest environments play in the tourism sector should not be forgotten. You can also go hiking in the forests and woods. In Italy, the world of hiking associations has over 620,000 members, of which 51% is connected to CAI (Italian Alpine Club).

Finally, the experience of the kindergartens in the woods, which are progressively spreading, counting for now 71 projects in the North and Center. Most of the initiatives host classes of 10-20 children, with some exceptions that reach up to 120 small pupils.


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