The Importance of the Forest Ecosystem

By Robert Agar
A beautiful forest in Washington.

The world's forests hold importance for all of their inhabitants as well as for the overall health of the planet. The benefits of forests to society and to the diversity of life make it vital that they be protected from deforestation and other potential negative impacts of civilization.

Types of Forests

Waterfall in forest.

Forests thrive in diverse climatic regions throughout the world, and can be categorized by their locations and elevations.

Climate

Dense rainforest.

Forests are major contributors to the Earth's ability to maintain its climate, by the global impact of their photosynthesis. They are a natural defense against climate change, removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and generating oxygen. This assists in purifying the atmosphere and controlling rising temperatures. Deforestation negates these benefits.

Ecology

High angle view of a lush forest.

In addition to assisting in climate control, forests have other ecological benefits. They prevent erosion by reducing the rainfall's force on the soil's surface and by absorbing water and not allowing it to directly run off and remove topsoil. Forests also act as water filters, collecting and storing water and recharging underground aquifers. Tropical montane forests are especially important to watersheds. Forests also increase the atmosphere's humidity by transpiration, which affects temperature and rainfall.

Biodiversity

Golden frog in rainforest.

Forests contain a greater range of biodiversity than any other ecosystems on earth. Only a fraction of the species found in forests have been examined and studied. A single massive tree in the Amazon rainforest can be home for thousands of species. The wide variety of trees and plants found in tropical forests comprises particularly intensive biodiversity. This biodiversity is be important on its own terms in ways we may not currently understand, as interdependent species have evolved over millions of years to interact and flourish.

Commercial Importance

Wooden furniture in a restaurant.

Humankind derives many benefits from forest ecosystems. Many medicines and pharmaceuticals have been discovered in plants native to forests. Local communities survive on plants and animals culled from the forests. Products that modern society depends on such as wood, paper and bamboo all originate from forest ecosystems. Many other desirable products such as spices, gums and dyes are also found in forests around the globe. Forests are important to humans for aesthetic reasons as well, and ecotourism is one way to use and promote the protection of forests in a sustainable manner.

About the Author

Robert Agar attended Pace University and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. He has written poetry for 20 years and was published in Sparrow, The Lyric and Facets. Recent writing includes Textbroker and Demand Studios in areas of technology, energy, nature and the environment.