Functions of Forests
Forests are world’s air-conditioners and earth’s blankets. Without forests, this world would be an inhospitable place to live in. Forests are the most valuable natural renewable resources of the earth. Forests help life on earth by performing various functions. Some of these functions are:
Productive Functions of the Forests
1. Forests are valuable natural resources. The goods provided by the forests are of immense importance to animals and mankind. Wood is a major forest produce and it is extensively used for various purposes. In India, most of wood produced is used for construction of house, agricultural implements, bridges, sleepers, etc. In India about 12.5 million cubic metres of timber is produced from the forest. Many species e.g. teak, sal, deodar, sissoo, babul, chir, haldu, axlewood, rosewood, dipterocarps, etc yield valuable timber.
2. Wood is a universal fuel, Approximately 175 million cubic meters of wood is used as fuel in the country, most of which is obtained from the forests.
3. Forest provides raw material to a large number of industries e.g. paper and pulp, plywood and other board, saw mills, furniture making, packing cases, match boxes and toys.
4. A large number of non-wood products are also available from forests. These are commonly called Minor Forest Products (M.E.P.) not because these are of minor signifcance but since they are harvested in smaller quantities. Some of the important minor forest products are as under:
(i) Fibros and Flosses: Fibros are obtained from best tissues of certain woody plants which are used for making ropes. Flosses are obtained from semal (Dombax ceiba) and kapuk (Ceiba pentandra).
(ii) Grasses and Bamboos: A large variety of grasses are found in the forests. About 20 per cent of 419 million livestock graze in the forests. Among valuable grasses, sabazi (Eulaliopsis binate) is harvested annually to the tune of about 80,000 tonnes. About 5.5 million tonnes of bamboo is harvested from our forests every year.
(iii) Essential Oils: India produces about 1500 tonnes of essential oils from forests every year. It utilizes in making soaps, perfumes, detergents and chemicals. Many species e.g. Eucalyptus spp., Bursera spp., Cymbopogon spp,Santalum album, etc. produce these oils.
(iv) Oil Seeds: Many tree species, e.g. Madhuca indica, Pongamia pinnata, Shorea robusta, Azadirachta indica, Schleichera oleosa, Vateria indica,etc. produce oil bearing seeds which are commercially important. Some of these oils can be made ft for human consumption. Presently these seeds are used in soap industry. Tribals use these oils for various purposes. There is a potential of production of about 1 million tonnes of oil every year from forest tree seeds.
(v) Tans and Dyes: A variety of vegetable tanning materials are produced in the forests. Important vegetable tanning materials are the myrobalan nuts and bark of wattles (Acacia mearnsiii, A. decurrens. A. nilotica and Cassia auriculata, etc. Katha and cutch are obtained from Acacia catechu trees.
(vi) Gums and Resins: Gums and resins are executed by trees as a result of wound or injury to the bark of wood. Gums are collected from several tree. Species, viz. Sterculia urens, Anogeissus latifolia, Lannea coromandelica, Acacia nilotica, Cochlospermum religiosum, Pterocarpus marsupium, Butea monosperma etc. Resin is obtained from Pinus roxburghii. (Chirpine)
(viii) Tendu Leaves and Other Leaves: Tendu leaves are used to produce bidi and therefore, these are also called bidi leaves. Annual collection of tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) leaves is about 90,000 tonnes in the country. Madhya Pradesh alone contributes about 45 per cent of this quantity. Leaves of trees such as, Bauhinia spp, Butea spp, etc. are used for making plates, drona, etc.
(ix) Edible Products: Fruits, fowers, seeds, tubers, etc. of several forest species are eaten. Anacardlum occidentale, Tamarindus indica. Syzygium cumini, Emblica ofcinalis, Buchanania lanzan, fowers of Madhuca indica, green pods of Moringa oleifera, new shoots of bamboo, etc. are in great demand.
(x) Lac and Other Products: Lac is a resinous secretion of the lac insects which feed on forest trees, particularly of Butea monosperme. Similarly, silk is another important product from forests. It is obtained from the cocoons of silk worm. Silk worm is raised on Terminalia alata and Morus alba plantations for obtaining silk. Honey is another product which is obtained from forests.
(xi) Fodder and Grazing: Forests provide fodder leaves and grazing facility to the rural animals. About 20 per cent livestock population depends upon forest grazing and leaf fodder supply. Leaf fodder of several tree species is almost as nutritious as that of agricultural fodder crops. Good fodder yielding tree species include; Ailanthus excelsa, Moringa leifera,Sesbania spp,Morus alba, Albizia excelsa, Moringa leifera, Sesbania spp., Morus alba, Albizia lebbeck, Leucaena leucocephala, Pongamia pinnata Hardwickia binata, etc. Protective and Ameliorative Functions
1) Forests play a signifcant role is maintaining the CO2 balance in the atmosphere. Without sufcient forest cover, the CO2 which is released in the atmosphere will not be utilized completely resulting higher per cent of the CO2 in the atmosphere. The CO 2 per cent in the atmosphere has already reached 0.042 per cent against the normal of 0.030 per cent. If this increases continuous higher temperature and other disturbances on the earth may bring about un-imaginable miseries to the mankind.
2) Forests increase local precipitation by about 5 to 10 per cent due to their Geographic and micro-climatic effects.These create condition favorable for the condensation of the clouds.
3) Forests reduce temperature and increase humidity.Temperature in the forests is 3° to 80 less than the adjoining open area.
4) Forests maintain the productivity of the soil by adding a large quantity of organic matter and recycling of nutrients. The leaves of trees are used as manure. Supply of frewood from forests releases dung for the use as manure.
5) Tree crowns reduce the violence of rain and check splash (sound) erosion. Forests, increase infltration and water holding capacity of the soil resulting in much lower surface run-off. This in turn results in checking of soil erosion.
6) Forests check foods.They intercept 15 to 30 per cent of the total rainfall. They increase infltration rate and water holding capacity of the soil. This results in reduced surface run-off and checks erosion. Mostly foods are caused due to siltation of river channels, caused due to erosion and higher peak discharges caused due to greater surface run-off.
7) Forests conserve soil and water both.
8) Forests and trees reduce wind velocity considerably.Reduction of wind velocity causes considerable reduction in wind erosion, checks shifting of sand dunes, and halts the process of desertifcation.
9) Forests, by reducing erosion check the siltation of irrigation and hydral reservoirs.
10) Forests are the store-house of genetic diversity.Several unknown plants may have potential for medicines and food.
11) Forests protect from physical, chemical and noise pollution. Duct and other particulate and gaseous pollutant cause serious problems, forests protect us from such pollutants.
12) Forests and trees provide shelterbelt and windbreak effect which is benefcial to agricultural crops, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas. Shelterbelt and windbreak increase agricultural production.
Recreation and Educational Functions
1) Forests provide recreational facilities to the people. A large variety of trees and shrubs, animals and birds attract a large number of people towards them. National parks and sanctuaries, which are rich in fora and fauna, are visited by a large number of people.
2) Environment to Birds/Birds songs.
3) Aesthetic value
4) Forests provide experimental feld and laboratory for learning to college and university students.
5) Forests provide a natural healing effect for a number of diseases. We have a number of sanatoriums established in well wooded areas.
1) Forests provide employment to a large number of people.
2) Forests and various forest activities help tribal to improve their socio-economic condition through collection, processing and marketing of various forest products and by providing gainful employment.
3) Forests help to earn a good sum of revenue to the government which is used for various developmental works. During every year forests gives revenue worth of about more than Rs.
4) Development of ponds / conservatories for fsheries.