Every year, on March 21, the whole world commemorates the International Day of Forests to raise awareness of the importance of forests to humanity and their vital role in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and food security. The theme for the 2020 edition is on Forests and Biodiversity. A forest is a large area of land covered with trees which reproduce themselves spontaneously, and provide a habitat for other life forms which may include water bodies (ponds, streams, lakes, rivers, etc), herbs and other plants, mammals, reptiles, aquaculture, birds and other wildlife.

Nigeria’s forest zone is situated mainly in the South of the country. According to https://www.legit.ng/, Nigeria’s rich forests are inhabited by 4,715 species of high plants; 899 species of birds; 53 amphibians; 154 reptiles; 273 mammals, etc. The forest zone is subdivided into the rain forest and the mangrove forest. Most of Nigeria’s rain forests are located in the Niger River Delta in the states of Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, and Taraba with high-mountains and trees of about 40-45 meters in height. These trees include mahogany, walnut, iroko, oil palm, rubber, obeche, etc.

Nigeria has the third largest mangrove forest in the world and the largest in Africa. They are found in the coastal states of Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, and River States. The mangrove forests habour creeks, lagoons and estuaries and provide habitation for different species of plants, fish, reptiles, mammals and minerals.

Nigeria’s forests reserves include:

  • Akure Reserve Forest (Ondo State, SW)
  • Edumanom Forest Reserve (Bayelsa State, SS)
  • Ngel Nyaki Forest Reserve (Mambilla Plateau, NE)
  • Afi River Forest Reserve (Cross River State, SS)
  • Idanre Forest Reserve (Ondo State, SW)
  • Okeluse Forest Reserve (Ondo State, SW)
  • Oba Hills Forest Reserve (Osun State, SW)
  • Ise Forest Reserve (Ekiti State, SW)
  • Okomu Forest Reserve (Edo State, SS)
  • Oluwa Forest Reserve (Ondo State, SW)
  • Stubb’s Creek Forest Reserve (Akwa Ibom State, SS)
  • Kwale Forest Reserve (Delta State, SS)
  • Omo Forest Reserve (Ogun State, SW)

Importance of Forests

Forests are very important to our existence and survival. According to panda.org, forests provide ecosystem services that are critical to human welfare. These include:

  • Absorbing harmful greenhouse gasses that produce climate change. In tropical forests alone, a quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in above and below ground biomass
  • Providing clean water for drinking, bathing, and other household needs
  • Protecting watersheds and reducing or slowing the amount of erosion and chemicals that reach waterways
  • Providing food and medicine
  • Serving as a buffer in natural disasters like flood and rainfalls
  • Providing habitat to more than half of the world’s land-based species