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Friday, February 11, 2011

Importance of forest

A thick patch of trees or cluster of trees is known as forest , forest are useful in many ways, such as they
Take in Co2 and release oxygen;
Release carbon and mineral elements such as nitrogen and phosphorus (important in plant growth) as they decay;
Absorb moisture for growth and releasing it as vapor through transpiration
Prevent erosion by reducing the force of rainfall at the soil surface and by intercepting and absorbing water, rather than allowing it to run off directly;
Harbor a diversity of wildlife;
Act as windbreaks;
Provide us with shade and beauty on a largely agricultural and urban landscape.

It is not possible to sum up the importance of forests in just a few words. Forests impact on our daily lives in so many ways, even in the midst of a busy, noisy, concrete city centre. Many species, including humans rely on forests, but we are allowing them to disappear.

From the air we breathe to the wood we love

Just think of how forests have affected your life today: Have you had your breakfast? Read a newspaper? Switched on a light? Travelled to work in a bus or car? Signed a cheque? Made a shopping list? Got a parking ticket? Blown your nose into a tissue?
Forest products are used in our daily lives. All the activities listed above directly or indirectly involve forests. Some are easy to figure out - fruits, paper and wood from trees, and so on. Others are less obvious - by-products that go into the manufacture of other everyday items like medicines, detergents, etc.

Habitats for biodiversity and livelihood for humans 

But looking at it beyond our narrow, human, not to mention urban, perspective, forests provide habitats to diverse animal species, and they also form the source of livelihood for many different human settlements as well as for governments. 

They offer watershed protection, timber and non-timber products, and various recreational options. They prevent soil erosion, help in maintaining the water cycle, check global warming by using carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. 

Yet we are losing them 

Over the past 50 years, about half the world's original forest cover has been lost, the most significant cause for that being humans beings' unsystematic use of its resources.

When we take away the forest, it is not just the trees that go. The entire ecosystem begins to come apart, with dire consequences for all of us.

Economic uses of forests

It is estimated that forest products contribute about 1% of world gross domestic product (GDP) through wood production and non-wood products.

Values in numbers
·         30% of the world's forests are primarily used for production of wood and non-wood products.
·         The total global trade in forest products was valued at around $379 billion in 2005.
·         The livelihoods of 1.6 billion people depend on forests.

Putting a price on forests

Forests have obvious economic significance through the provision of timber and wood. In addition, non-timber products like rubber, cotton, medicinal products, and food represent significant economic value.

Even more important is fuel wood and fodder, especially in developing nations, where people depend on wood almost entirely for their household energy.

Given the immense economic benefit of forests, the demand for commercial timber and other products is ever increasing. Already, there are signs growing shortage of tropical hardwoods. This is due to over-harvesting of timber, but also increasing demands from a growing human population, agriculture, mining and water storage.


Items made out of wood touch our lives in more ways than we can imagine. Thousands of consumer products are directly made from wood. 
Is it good or bad?
But if demand for timber is fast dwindling forests, why continue using it? Why not look for alternatives? In environmental terms, there are both positives and negatives in using wood-based material.
Positively, it is environment friendly... 
The good thing is, timber is a natural product and can be used with minimum processing. It occurs almost worldwide, and is essentially a renewable and recyclable resource. Because of its natural origins, most types of wood are fairly durable. Timber has a high strength to weight ratio that allows for efficient transportation.
...but exploited beyond sustainable limits
On the negative side, the high demand for timber products encourages illegal and unregulated logging.
Transporting of timber also adds to greenhouse gas emissions, especially for exotic species.

Timber processing can also have undesirable effects on the environment. Dust emissions result from the sawing and sanding of wood-based products and toxic chemicals are sometimes used to treat the wood. Nonetheless, the processing of other everyday materials such as plastics and aluminium are far more damaging.

Non Timber Forest Products

As important as timber are the non-wood products that are procured from forests. Known as NTFP or NWFP (non-timber or non-wood forest products) These include all biological products extracted from forests apart from timber.

Economic implications

About 150 types of NTFP are significant in international trade. They are also increasingly being acknowledged for their role in sustainable development and conservation of biological diversity.

The value of non-wood forest product removals was estimated at US$18.5 billion in 2005, with food products accounting for the biggest share.

Up to 80% of the population in developing countries depends on NTFP for subsistence, both economically and for nutrition. NTFP are especially important to women in developing countries from Latin America, Asia, Africa and Far East.