From time immemorial the forest has supplied man with useful goods; fuel for warmth and cooking, and materials for shelter, tools and transport. Though wood products have now changed in both degree and kind and modern chemistry enables wood to be plasticized, moulded, laminated, impregnated and turned into a bewildering number of products, still roughly half our wood is used for fuel. And much of the remainder still goes, as in primitive times, into relatively crude materials for shelter and transport.
Without the forests we would have much less oxygen. One acre of forest provides over 6 tons of oxygen per year! This is because trees (and all green plants) use a process called photosynthesis, during which they take in carbon dioxide and, as a by-product, produce oxygen.
Fossil fuels, when burned, create carbon dioxide, so carbon dioxide levels have risen dramatically. Unfortunately, this gas, in large amounts, acts like an insulator and keeps heat near the surface of the Earth. This is called the “greenhouse effect.”
In addition to the other important aspects of the ancient forests, some individual species, such as the yew tree (Taxus brevifolia), have shown great importance in the medical field. The bark of the yew tree provides taxol, an anti-cancer agent.
It helps treat ovarian, lung and breast cancer. This property of the yew tree was only discovered in recent years, and if the forests that are home to the yew trees are lost, other medical treatments may also be lost as well.
2. Protective Functions:
Forests protect our waters and manage our climate. When it rains in the forests, the leaves allow the water to slowly drip to the ground. When a forest has been clear-cut, the rain pours down hard on the unprotected soil. The dirt then washes into streams, muddying the waters.
This is unhealthy for the fish, and can cause flooding. Also, without trees, the moisture in the air evaporates quickly, changing the climate of nearby forests. This process prevents trees from receiving the water they need.
Vegetation, plant roots, and soil quality also mitigate the impact of floods and erosion. Biomass production is vitally important for human beings. Moreover, when used for construction or as a source of energy, wood is a raw material. Its production can meet sustainability criteria (including those referring to climate change: balanced CO2 cycle).
Plant cover, root systems, and the quality of topsoil enable good infiltration and water retention. Forests also play a role as landscape and recreation areas. They often have cultural and spiritual value.
3. Regulative Functions:
Forest regulates temperature (reducing global warming), humidity, precipitation, shape soil environment and different hydrological cycles.