March 13, 2017 by Species Ecology
Goods and Services the forest gives
“The tragedy of deforestation, both in Amazonia and elsewhere in the tropics, is that their high economic, social, cultural and aesthetic far outweigh its benefits“ Anderson, 1990.
The images of forest fires, bulldozers toppling trees, the sound of chainsaws and falling trees, generally produce sensations that are not very pleasant. The consequence of this large scale plundering of the virgin rainforest is it not only altered the landscape mosaic upon which many species of animals now ought to flee from their native habitats to somewhere else, but it also lose other ecosystem services and tangible needs that forests quietly provide to human. Forests as terrestrial biome is one of the greatest assets to the economic accountancy because it provides goods and services to human. However, the vital ecosystem services it provides to man is often grossly undermined due to lack of ecological and conservation consensus both in socio-economic and political standpoints. The intangible life-support ecosystem services we receive from primary rainforests and other terrestrial forest biomes are simplified and numbered below:
1. Climate Control. Deforestation is causing fundamental problem. It disrupts the climate by increasing the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the global atmosphere, thus contributing to climate change. Contrary to the ‘mythological’ preconception relating to the fossil fuel emissions from vehicular sources leading to drastic climate change, it is worth pointing out that approximately 30% of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere annually directly derived from the burning of tropical forests.
2. Forest ecosystems also play an important role in regulating the impact of heavy rains because they retain three times more water than soil removed, thus preventing floods, mud flush and soil erosion by runoff. Forests favor recharge and protect watersheds because they regulate the maximum flow of water by reducing sediment in surface waters (rivers, lakes, ponds) and reservoirs.
3. The capture and storage of carbon in nature occurs in plants through the process of photosynthesis. It is observed that the carbon is higher in forests with faster biomass accumulation and long storage periods as Araucaria forests (Araucaria sp) and eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp) in Australia or teak plantations (Teutonic grandis) in Indonesia and Costa Rica. When these tree species are used for construction, because their useful lives are higher, time increases carbon sequestration. Currently the amount of carbon stored in soils is higher than in vegetation, especially in non-forested ecosystems in middle and high latitudes.
4. Forests, especially tropical ones, play an important role in the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity. They provide food, habitat, and refuge for multitude endemic species that are intricately linked via food web and tropic level. They are true gene banks and natural repository of the undiscovered biological resources.
5. Forests are very attractive natural landscapes that invite the scientific expedition, wildlife adventure, species observation, ecotourism, and spiritual pursuits. They pose recreational spaces, aesthetic, cultural, social and religious significances that are often taken for granted.
For the last three centuries the forest loss was higher in the Northern Hemisphere, however, in recent decades this trend is shifted towards widespread degradation and unsustainable exploitations of tropical forests in the southern hemisphere notable in Indo-Malayan ecological realm. Nevertheless, neo-tropical Latin America and the Caribbean with Africa are the two regions that are also losing their forests at dramatically high rate. In Latin America the grim record is a net loss of 88 million hectares of forests (9% of the total forest area) during the 20 years from 1990 to 2010. With this pace of deforestation, Latin America would be without forests in approximately 220 years. This will have a detrimental impact on human needs and existence particularly for the poor who depends on forests for their essential surviving needs in the form of food, fiber, medicines, fuel, clean water and housing. According to the World Bank, a quarter of the world’s population is in poverty hence it is important to address the poverty within the forest policy framework that embrace sustainable forestry practice in developing tropical regions. This realization may encourage us to change our anthropocentric perspective towards forestry to sustainable forestry practice over time. With citizens’ participation it can promote forestation and reforestation, sustainable forest management in the long run. However the forestry legislative compliance with stringent environmental laws may also need to be taken into account in order to bring about forestry and biodiversity conservation in tropical and semi-tropical biomes.