Trees are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon which is important to maintain global temperatures. The rise in carbon levels is believed to be the main reason behind global warming. In spite of the advantages of forests, deforestation has become very rampant in the modern era causing several problems like pollution, soil erosion, and climate change. Here are some of the reasons that explain the importance of forests for all living beings (See figure 1) and why they should be preserved proactively.
Forests maintain the ecosystem by absorbing greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide that are believed to be the reason for climate change. Carbon is stored in the biomass within the forests. Tropical forests alone harbor a huge amount of carbon (around a quarter of a trillion tons) that can be disastrous if it is released into the atmosphere.
Forests provide a sustainable environment for the survival of millions of animals. It is home for several species including snakes, turtles, crocodiles, insects, birds, butterflies, monkeys, and other wild animals. It provides an ecosystem for the animals to thrive. The forest floor is also a rich medium for microorganisms, which are essential for the conversion of dead matter into nutrients. Forests are also home to indigenous people who depend on them for their livelihood.
Forest-based water tables, rivers, streams, and lakes are critical sources of water. The green cover preserves the water reserves from sun radiation. The Amazon forest is home to the world’s largest watershed and river system.
Globally, around 90% of the species including various plants and animals thrive in forests. They offer the necessary habitat and support biodiversity. They are home to the genes of biodiversity.
Photosynthesis is a critical function of plants to generate food and energy. Plants, shrubs, and trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during daytime and release oxygen. According to an estimate, an acre of mature trees can provide oxygen for 18 people. They act as giant lungs purifying the air in the atmosphere by removing carbon dioxide and maintaining balanced levels of oxygen that we breathe every day. Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases like ammonia, and sulfur dioxide out of the air. These toxins are trapped in the leaves and barks.
Forests provide green cover which absorbs the sun’s radiation and keeps the temperature down. They regulate atmospheric temperature through evapotranspiration and breeze. Forests also promote rainfall that helps in maintaining the water table and a cool climate. Deforestation has the opposite effect causing the global temperature to rise dramatically.
Dead leaves and broken branches ultimately are converted to soil through the decomposition process and this conversion enriches the soil with nutrients. Microorganisms present in the soil convert the biodegradable material to simpler particles that can be utilized by the plants again. Trees have very strong roots that hold the soil intact in cases of floods or any other reasons that cause soil erosion. They are very critical in hilly areas or stream slopes as they slow the runoff and keep the soil intact. Uncontrolled soil erosion can destroy the fertile soil leading to barren conditions.
Forest is an important component of the water cycle process. They regulate evaporation, condensation, and precipitation of the water. They also nourish the aquifers thereby replenishing groundwater supplies. Trees allow the rainwater to flow down the trunk into the soil thereby preventing the stormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean. They act as giant sponges that filter water and recharge the water table.
Forests are rich in herbs, plants, and trees of medicinal value. The extracts, seeds, leaves, barks from these plants and trees treat several diseases while being non-toxic to the human body. Some examples include quinine, curare, rosy periwinkle, wild yams, extracts of willow trees, calabar bean, and samambaia.
Forests have a lot to offer to human beings. Every component of a tree including leaves, branches, stem, bark, fruits, seeds, and root are useful. Forests provide wood, timber, raw materials, vegetables, and fruits, which have significant economic value. The timber is used in construction and making furniture. Wood is also essential in the production of paper. The rubber extracted from trees is used to make several products. Even green waste has economic significance.