International agencies such as the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) give significant importance to youths as they are tomorrow’s generation and will be taking the lead in preserving the biodiversity of the planet.
It is necessary to continuously educate them and provide them with the right information that would help develop sustainable solutions. Considering this fact, FAO has published four beautiful guides on biodiversity that will make today’s youths understand the environmental issues the planet faces and what type of solutions can be worked out by them.
These guides are available for free download.
Guide #1: The Youth Guide to Forests
This guide, ‘The Youth Guide on Forests’ highlights the importance of forests and how they have been playing a critical role in providing vital services to humans and animals on this planet. It will first of all provide a basic understanding of what forests are and what are the forest issues that need to be addressed.
It is interesting to note that the definition of a forest developed by the FAO includes three main characteristics: A forest should have a minimum area size of 0.5 hectares; a minimum tree height of 5 meters; and there should be at least 10 percent crown cover. The guide gives a reference to the the famous book of Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book, which presents a rich diversity of various plans and animals living in an eco-system and adopting certain rules to live together (known as the “law of the jungle). The book is a classic and it has been read by millions of readers around the world. According to “The Guide to Forests” this book has been also adopted by the Scouting Movement.
Based on how humans impact forests, the guide has classified forests into primary forests where there is no presence of human activity; other natural forests where there is some presence of human activity; and planted forests which are entirely planted by humans.
The guide also provides an overview of different types of forests around the world such as the Amazon Rainforest, the Congo Basin, the Southeast Asian Rainforest, the boreal forest (which is the largest terrestrial ecosystem covering parts of Alaska, Canada, Scandinavia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Japan) and the Himalayas. The guide introduces various types of species in these forests with amazing pictures.
The guide further discusses the myriad ways in which forests provide a huge range of benefits to the planet and to the people; their impact on culture and religion; the threats to forests around the world and how various people are contributing to ensure the safety of forests.
Guide #2: The Youth Guide to the Ocean
As a young person, if you are passionate about oceans and keen on gathering latest information about the status of our oceans, then this illustrative guide will be very useful.
Published by FAO under the Youth and United Nations Global Alliance (YUNGA) Learning and Action Series, this guide discusses what the ocean is, what does the ocean do for us, the oceans’ histories, coastal waters, estuaries, tides, mangroves and saltmarshes, corals and seagrasses.
According to the guide’s preface, this guide, “gives you a starting point. It illustrates many of the wonders of the ocean, what the ocean does for us and what we are doing to the ocean. It also describes what is being done at the national and international level to protect the ocean. Each chapter contains links and resources for you to explore and learn more. At the end of the Guide, Section D is designed to help you take action. It highlights some of the steps that you can take to develop a successful marine project and invites you to be inspired by the stories of young people around the world who are already taking action.”
According to this guide, while 50% of our oxygen comes from the ocean, the 80 percent of the planet’s organisms are found in the ocean. It is also believed that the ocean contains nearly 20 million tons of gold.
The guide further informs us that although humans cannot drink seawater due to its salty nature, even the organisms living inside the ocean do not drink its water. The water in their bodies comes from the food they eat.
Oceans are used by humans for various purposes such as fishing and farming, natural resources, renewable energy, habitation, communication, recreation and leisure, medicines, transport and commerce and ornamental resources.
Some of these human activities have actually threatened oceans like construction in coastal areas had caused degradation of reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangroves. The guide explains that approximately 80% of the pollution in the ocean comes from land, especially coastal zones. Besides, fishing and aquaculture also have damaging effects on oceans.
Guide #3: Forests for Kids: Learning Guide
This is another interesting and illustrative guide on forests but aimed for children in the age group of 8-13 years. The book introduces the reader to the world of forests in a more simple and lucid manner.
The guide explains about different layers of the forest such as the Forest Floor, the Understorey Layer, the Canopy Layer and the Emergent Layer. Forests play an important role in balancing the climate. For example, a part of the water that is rained onto the ground goes back into the atmosphere and will later turn into the rain once again.
Forest soils help in filtering water, making it cleaner so that even humans can use it for drinking and cooking purposes. Other benefits of forests are the prevention of waterlogging and soil erosion.
Many medicines originate from forests. According to this guide, nearly 70,000 plant species are used as medicine around the world and two-thirds of all cancer-fighting drugs come from rainforest plants. The cost of these plants is considered to be around US $108 billion a year.
Guide #4: Youth Guide to Biodiversity
This illustrated guide provides insights into the biodiversity and how beneficial it is and the existing threats to it. The guide includes award-winning photos taken by youth from around the world as part of the ‘See the Bigger Picture’ contest that supported The Green Wave, a global campaign to promote biodiversity.
You can also use this guide to develop an action plan through the tools offered in it including setting up an action plan and also developing your own biodiversity project with Six Simple Steps towards Change.
The guide informs us that Biodiversity consists of all the many species of animals, plants, fungi, micro-organisms and other life forms and the variety that exists within each species.
It also includes the diversity present in ecosystems – or explained another way – the variation we see in the environment including landscapes, the vegetation and animals present in it, and the various ways in which these components interact with each other. Biodiversity is very complex and is often explained as the variety and variability of genes, species, and ecosystems.
The benefits of biodiversity can be found in fibre and clothing, food, medication, culture and leisure benefits, nutrient cycling and clean air and climate regulation.
The guide identifies the following main causes of biodiversity loss:
- habitat loss which occurs when natural environments are transformed or modified to serve human needs
- climate change caused by building up of greenhouse gases
- overexploitation or unsustainable use
- invasive aliens species that have spread outside of their natural habitat and threaten biodiversity in their new area