Forestry is the science and craft of creating, managing, using, conserving, and repairing forests, woodlands, and associated resources for human and environmental benefits.
Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands. The science of forestry has elements that belong to the biological, physical, social, political and managerial sciences.
Forests cover nearly athird of all land on Earth, providing vital organic infrastructurefor some of the planet’s densest, most diverse collections of life.They support countless species, including our own, yet we often seemoblivious of that. Humans now clear millions of acres from naturalforests every year, especially in the tropics, letting deforestationthreaten some of Earth’s most valuable ecosystems.
Modern forestry generally embraces a broad range of concerns, in what is known as multiple-use management, including the provision of timber, fuel wood, wildlife habitat, natural water quality management, recreation, landscape and community protection, employment, aesthetically appealing landscapes, biodiversity management, watershed management, erosion control, and preserving forests as “sinks” for atmospheric carbon dioxide.
A practitioner of forestry is known as a forester. Other common terms are: a verderer, or a silviculturalist. Silviculture is narrower than forestry, being concerned only with forest plants, but is often used synonymously with forestry.
Forest ecosystems have come to be seen as the most important component of the biosphere, and forestry has emerged as a vital applied science, craft, and technology.
Forestry is an important economic segment in various industrial countries. For example, in Germany, forests cover nearly a third of the land area, wood is the most important renewable resource, and forestry supports more than a million jobs and about €181 billion of value to the German economy each year.
We tend to take forests for granted, underestimating how indispensable they still are for everyone on the planet. That would quickly change if they all disappeared, but since humanity might not survive that scenario, the lesson wouldn’t be very useful by then. As the Once-ler finally realizes in Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” a crisis like deforestation depends on indifference. “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,” Seuss wrote, “nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Indifference, in turn,often depends on ignorance. So to help things get better forwoodlands around the world, we’d all be wise to learn more about thebenefits of forests and to share that knowledge with others. That’sthe goal of events like Arbor Day and the International Day ofForests, a U.N. holiday observed annually on March 21. But forestssupport us every day of the year, and as deforestation runs rampantaround the world, they increasingly need us to return the favor.
We depend on forestsfor our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Besidesproviding habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forestsalso offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigateclimate change. Yet, despite our dependence on forests, we are stillallowing them to disappear.
How have forestsaffected your life today?
Have you had your breakfast? Traveled to work in a bus or car? Sat on a chair? Made a shopping list? Got a parking ticket? Blown your nose into a tissue? Forest products are a vital part of our daily lives in more ways than we can imagine.
Over2 billion people rely on forests
Forests provide uswith shelter, livelihoods, water, food and fuel security. All theseactivities directly or indirectly involve forests. Some are easy tofigure out – fruits, paper and wood from trees, and so on. Others areless obvious, such as by-products that go into everyday items likemedicines, cosmetics and detergents.
Habitatsfor biodiversity and livelihood for humans
Looking at it beyondour narrow, human – not to mention urban – perspective, forestsprovide habitats to diverse animal species. They are home to 80% ofthe world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and they also form the sourceof livelihood for many different human settlements, including 60million indigenous people.
Forestsprovide jobs for more than 13 million people across the world
In addition, 300 million people live in forests, including 60 million indigenous people.Yet, we are losing them. Between 1990 and 2015, the world lost some 129 million ha of forest, an area the size of South Africa. When we take away the forestry, it is not just the trees that go. The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart, with dire consequences for all of us.
Afteroceans, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon.
They provide ecosystemservices that are critical to human welfare. These include:
- Absorbing harmful greenhouse gasses that produce climate change. In tropical forests alone, a quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in above and below ground biomass
- Providing clean water for drinking, bathing, and other household needs
- Protecting watersheds and reducing or slowing the amount of erosion and chemicals that reach waterways
- Providing food and medicine
- Serving as a buffer in natural disasters like flood and rainfalls
- Providing habitat to more than half of the world’s land-based species
21 Reasons why Forests are Important
Don’tmiss the forest for the trees. Here are a few reminders why woodlandsare wonderful and worth protecting.
Inhopes of shedding more light on what forests do for us, and howlittle we can afford to lose them, here are 21 reasons why forestsare so important:
1.They help us breathe
Forests pump out oxygen we need to live and absorb the carbon dioxide we exhale (or emit). A single mature, leafy tree is estimated to produce a day’s supply of oxygen for anywhere from two to 10 people. Phytoplankton in the ocean are more prolific, providing half of Earth’s oxygen, but forests are still a key source of quality air.
2.They’re more than just trees
Nearly half of Earth’s known species live in forests, including 80% of biodiversity on land. That variety is especially rich in tropical rainforests, but forests teem with life around the planet: Insects and worms work nutrients into soil, bees and birds spread pollen and seeds, and keystone species like wolves and big cats keep hungry herbivores in check. Biodiversity is a big deal, both for ecosystems and human economies, yet it’s increasingly threatened around the world by deforestation.
3.People live there, too
Some 300 millionpeople live in forests worldwide, including an estimated 60 millionindigenous people whose survival depends almost entirely on nativewoodlands. Many millions more live along or near forest fringes, buteven just a scattering of urban trees can raise property values andreduce crime, among other benefits.
4.They keep us cool
By growing a canopy to hog sunlight, trees also create vital oases of shade on the ground. Urban trees help buildings stay cool, reducing the need for electric fans or air conditioners, while large forests can tackle daunting tasks like curbing a city’s “heat island” effect or regulating regional temperatures.
5.They keep Earth cool
Trees also have another way to beat the heat: absorb CO2 that fuels global warming. Plants always need some CO2 for photosynthesis, but Earth’s air is now so thick with extra emissions that forests fight global warming just by breathing. CO2 is stored in wood, leaves and soil, often for centuries.
6.They make it rain
Large forests can influence regional weather patterns and even create their own microclimates. The Amazon rainforest, for example, generates atmospheric conditions that not only promote regular rainfall there and in nearby farmland, but potentially as far away as the Great Plains of North America.
7.They fight flooding
Tree roots are keyallies in heavy rain, especially for low-lying areas like riverplains. They help the ground absorb more of a flash flood, reducingsoil loss and property damage by slowing the flow.
8.They pay it forward
On top of flood control, soaking up surface runoff also protects ecosystems downstream. Modern storm water increasingly carries toxic chemicals, from gasoline and lawn fertilizer to pesticides and pig manure, that accumulate through watersheds and eventually create low-oxygen “dead zones.”
9.They refill aquifers
Forests are like giantsponges, catching runoff rather than letting it roll across thesurface, but they can’t absorb all of it. Water that gets past theirroots trickles down into aquifers, replenishing groundwater suppliesthat are important for drinking, sanitation and irrigation around theworld.
10.They block wind
Farming near a foresthas lots of benefits, like bats and songbirds that eat insects orowls and foxes that eat rats. But groups of trees can also serve as awindbreak, providing a buffer for wind-sensitive crops. And beyondprotecting those plants, less wind also makes it easier for bees topollinate them.
11.They keep dirt in its place
A forest’s rootnetwork stabilizes huge amounts of soil, bracing the entireecosystem’s foundation against erosion by wind or water. Not onlydoes deforestation disrupt all that, but the ensuing soil erosion cantrigger new, life-threatening problems like landslides and duststorms.
12.They clean up dirty soil
In addition to holdingsoil in place, forests may also use phytoremediation to clean outcertain pollutants. Trees can either sequester the toxins away ordegrade them to be less dangerous. This is a helpful skill, lettingtrees absorb sewage overflows, roadside spills or contaminatedrunoff.
13.They clean up dirty air
We herald houseplants for purifying the air, but don’t forget forests. They can clean up air pollution on a much larger scale, and not just CO2. Trees absorb a wide range of airborne pollutants, including carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. In the U.S. alone, urban trees are estimated to save 850 lives per year and $6.8 billion in total health care costs just by removing pollutants from the air.
14.They muffle noise pollution
Sound fades inforests, making trees a popular natural noise barrier. The mufflingeffect is largely due to rustling leaves plus other woodland whitenoise, like bird songs and just a few well-placed trees can cutbackground sound by 5 to 10 decibels, or about 50% as heard by humanears.
15.They feed us
Not only do treesproduce fruits, nuts, seeds and sap, but they also enable acornucopia near the forest floor, from edible mushrooms, berries andbeetles to larger game like deer, turkeys, rabbits and fish.
16.They heal us
Forests give us many natural medications, and increasingly inspire synthetic spin-offs. The asthma drug theophylline comes from cacao trees, for one, while a compound in eastern red cedar needles fights drug-resistant bacteria. About 70% of known plants with cancer-fighting properties occur only in rainforests, yet fewer than 1% of tropical rainforest plants have been tested for medicinal effects.
Even just walking in the woods can offer health benefits, too, including stress relief, reduced blood pressure and a stronger immune system. The latter may be partly due to trees releasing airborne compounds called phytoncides, which prompt our bodies to boost the natural killer (NK) cells that attack infections and guard against tumors.
17.They help us make things
Where would humans bewithout timber and resin? We’ve long used these renewable resourcesto make everything from paper and furniture to homes and clothing,but we also have a history of getting carried away, leading tooveruse and deforestation. Thanks to the growth of tree farming andsustainable forestry, though, it’s becoming easier to findresponsibly sourced tree products.
18.They create jobs
More than 1.6 billionpeople rely on forests to some extent for their livelihoods,according to the U.N., and 10 million are directly employed in forestmanagement or conservation. Forests contribute about 1% of the globalgross domestic product through timber production and non-timberproducts, the latter of which alone support up to 80% of thepopulation in many developing countries.
19.They create majesty
Natural beauty may bethe most obvious and yet least tangible benefit a forest offers. Theabstract blend of shade, greenery, activity and tranquility can yieldconcrete advantages for people, however, like convincing us toappreciate and preserve old-growth forests for future generations.
20.They help us explore and relax
Our innate attraction to forests, part of a phenomenon known as biophilia, is still in the relatively early stages of scientific explanation. We know biophilia draws us to woods and other natural scenery, though, encouraging us to rejuvenate ourselves by exploring, wandering or just unwinding in the wilderness.
They give us a sense of mystery and wonder, evoking the kinds of wild frontiers that molded our distant ancestors. And thanks to our growing awareness that spending time in forests is good for our health, many people now seek out those benefits with the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, commonly translated to English as “forest bathing.”
21.They’re pillars of their communities
Like the famous rug in “The Big Lebowski,” forests really tie everything together and we often don’t appreciate them until they’re gone. Beyond all their specific ecological perks (which can’t even fit in a list this long), they’ve reigned for eons as Earth’s most successful setting for life on land.
Our species probably couldn’t live without them, but it’s up to us to make sure we never have to try. The more we enjoy and understand forests, the less likely we are to miss them for the trees.