CBD COP11: Trees ever more vital as population increases

Rio Conventions Pavilion, CBD COP11 (11/10/2012) – Ravi Prabhu, Deputy Director of the World Agroforestry Centre, describes the vital role trees play in all ecosystems and the increasing importance of their conservation as world population grows.

Prabhu poetically describes trees as ‘sentinels’, standing over peoples, times and landscapes like no other organism. He refers to them as islands, even archipelagoes of life wherever they appear, from the forests to the pastures and croplands. He goes on to describe their vital role in many ecosystems, providing shade or nesting space for many organisms.

Prabhu notes that as human population grows there is a tendency to use more of our forested land to produce food. His organisation aims to reduce the consumption of land by introducing trees into agricultural systems, thus improving crop productivity, conservation values and the ecosystem services provided. On grazing land he argues that trees can increase productivity of cattle, and in arable land he argues that trees can improve the fertility of the soil.

Prabhu laments that his message rarely reaches agricultural students. He resents the compartmentalisation of the modern world in which both science and government separate issues, thereby losing opportunities for interconnection. He contrasts this to a farmer, who works as part of an entire ecosystem.