The Earth has lost more than half of its trees since human beings first learned how to wield the axe.

Guardians of our climate and protectors of our health, trees first appeared on Earth more 380 million years ago. Our planet’s forests store more carbon than is contained in the Earth’s entire atmosphere, and they give off oxygen—making it possible for us to live here. Some put it this way: our cells “speak the same language” as the trees.

Even our rainfall is born in the forests—through transpiration, the water absorbed by tree roots is given off as water vapor. Trees produce substances that seed the clouds; and the vapor, condensing, then becomes flowing water.

Forests are home to more than half of the world’s species, and half of our medications come from plants.

Unfortunately, there’s another “half” figure that isn’t so good. Half of the forests that existed at the dawn of agriculture have been destroyed. Forests today need our protection and our help.

That’s why the United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests. Watch this seven-and-a-half-minute film from the U.N. on this incredible natural habitat.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,