International Day of Forests March 2022 Blog written by Dan Tubb Forests and woodlands are some of the most important ecosystems within both the UK and the wider world. They provide a host of benefits, covering a range of issues from mental health to promoting biodiversity and helping in the fight against climate change. Studies have found that taking a walk in the woods can significantly reduce stress, and improve your mood - believe me, it works. This can be down to the calming atmosphere within forests and woodlands, with birdsong and all manner of aromas, which I often find to be very relaxing. Forests are very useful in their ability to allow you to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, as they are generally much quieter and further away from busier and noisier urban areas. There are several techniques used to help maximise the sensory experience of going to forests, a popular one being forest bathing, which originated in Japan and aims to increase people's relaxation by promoting a greater focus on nature and taking the time to experience the forests. Not only is preserving forests important for our mental health, but our woodlands and forests play a vital role in helping to prevent flooding and limiting damage to buildings, during and after severe rain events. Within forests, vegetation cover will stop or at least slow down surface water after a rainfall event. This will have the effect of preventing our drainage systems from becoming overloaded which, in turn, will reduce the likelihood of flooding. With the likely increase in the severity of storms as a result of the ever-growing climate crisis, protecting our forests will only become more important in helping to mitigate the potential impacts of more frequent flooding. This is why urban areas where there are fewer trees, less vegetation cover, and many more impermeable surfaces tend to experience considerably worse flooding. Forests also play a vital role in helping in the fight against climate change. Whilst it may seem that the smaller forests we have in the UK pale in comparison to tropical rainforests, like the Amazon and the Congo, they are still valuable in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. On average, an acre of trees will capture around two and a half tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, so just imagine what several thousand acres of forest, such as Savernake forest here in Wiltshire, along with many others across the UK, could do to help in the fight. Our woodlands can also provide a safe refuge for many species found within the UK, with thousands of different species from birds and mammals to reptiles and even some varieties of fish relying on forest ecosystems in a complex web of interdependence. Dark and silty woodland streams often play host to young fish as there is plenty of available space for them to hide from would-be predators. Meanwhile trees can act as cities within themselves, hosting all manner of animals such as squirrels and nesting birds in the branches. Maintaining our forests will become increasingly important in conserving biodiversity as urban areas continue to grow and rural areas look to continue declining in size and their abundance of wildlife. Thank you for reading about why I love woodlands, and I hope this has been a valuable insight into the importance of protecting our forests.