and regulate the flow of water across landscapes, ensuring steady water flows to agricultural production downstream and clean drinking water for people and livestock (Power 2010). Further, forests prevent soil erosion and landslides as tree and plant roots bind soil particles together. Deforestation is one of the key drivers of the estimated 10 million hectares of arable land that are degraded each year due to soil erosion (Kang and Akinnifesi 2000; Pimentel 2006). Trees also play a vital role in increasing soil productivity by adding nutrients that are necessary for crop production (Pimentel et al. 1997; Kang and Akinnifesi 2000). In addition, trees serve as habitat for insects and birds that provide pollination and natural pest control in wild and agricultural food production (Sunderland et al. 2013). Forests are one of the richest ecosystems on earth with over 80 per cent of the terrestrial biodiversity (FAO 2012a). Conserving biodiversity in forests is not only crucial for today’s food security, but also for future generations. Forests act as a gene pool containing numerous varieties of crops that are cultivated today. Coffee, cacao, tea and avocado are all examples of cultivated food items that can be found in their natural form in forests (FAO 2011a). Protecting wild food items is crucial as future events, such as changes in climate or diseases, may affect the productivity of crops commonly grown today.
This illustrates the complexity of the relationship between forests and food security. A change in land use from forest to agricultural or grazing land will most likely increase net food production. However, while such land cover change may ensure short-term food security it is important to consider the long- term consequences. Food loss and waste in forest ecosystems Although forests are one of the key food provisioning ecosystems, their role and contribution to food security, food loss and waste is not as obvious, since forest foods are not part of commercial food production. There are no detailed studies that have estimated the global or regional quantity or value of forests’ contribution to food production or food loss and waste. The challenges with such studies lie with the difficulty of estimating a monetary value for non-market food items and quantifying how much food forests produce. The most significant contribution of forests to food security however may be the ecosystem services they provide that are vital for other food-providing ecosystems. Forest ecosystems’ regulating and supporting services are fundamental to other food provisioning ecosystems, especially agro-ecosystems (MA 2005; FAO 2011a). Clean water is a necessity for all food production. Forests capture, filter, store