Importance of Forests to the World

Forest

Most people think on forests as the source of timber for wood products and fuel. Forests remain an important source of both wood and fuel although the amount of timber which is harvested in plantations rather than ancient forests increases with every year. Forests, however, are important to the world for other reasons as well. Examples include:

Biodiversity. As much as one half of all plant and animal species directly depend from forests which provide them food or/and shelter. In the Amazon Rainforest alone live as many as 10 percent of all known species. With the loss of forests the world therefore is not only losing forested land but thousands or even tens of thousands plant and animal species. And with the loss of biodiversity, many wildlife species are threatened with extinction which in turn seriously threatens the health of ecosystems and the very existence of humanity as well because we are a part of the ecosystem as well.

Soil erosion control. Forests prevent the wind and surface water from carrying away the most fertile upper soil level. Deforestation does not always lead to soil erosion, however, most areas in which forests have been cleared face serious problems with land degradation and desertification.

Flood and landslide control. Deforestation increases the amount of surface waters because the trees absorb incomparably greater amount of water than shrubs and grassland by which they reduce the risk of floods. One of the best examples of close correlation between deforestation and flooding is the Loess Plateau in China which was cleared of forests thousands of years ago. The soil in the plateau is highly susceptible to the force of water and has been shown to play the key role in the flooding of the Yellow River in the lower stream. And since the tree roots bind the soil together, removal of trees especially on steep slopes dramatically increases the risk of landslides.

Forest

Medicine. Many animal and plant species which live in forests, mainly in tropical forests have been shown to have a major potential in treatment of a variety of currently incurable diseases. With the loss of forests, we are therefore also losing an irreplaceable source of potential cures for many conditions including cancer.

Climate regulation. Trees “breathe in” carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and air pollutants and “breathe out” pure oxygen. That way the world forests play an important role in climate regulation because with each tree cut down the levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases in the atmosphere automatically increase. In addition to helping the effort to reverse climate change, forests also increase rainfall.

Cultural diversity. There are still many communities, especially in large tropical forests which directly depend on the forest. With the destruction of forests, however, the existence of many communities is seriously threatened and with it, the world’s cultural diversity.