Why Are Forests Important?

Forests provide essential habitat to wildlife, produce oxygen, act as carbon sinks, control pollution and prevent erosion. Forests are also a source of many useful products and are an important part of the economy.

Forests help preserve biodiversity by providing habitat to many diverse species of wildlife. The Amazon rain forest, for example, is home to nearly 1,300 species of birds, over 400 each of mammals and amphibians, over 300 reptiles and millions of insects.

Because trees use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, forested areas clean the air of excess carbon dioxide and produce oxygen in return. Because trees have long lives and contain carbon in their tissues, they sequester carbon, acting as carbon sinks. Forests also help clean the air of other pollutants and provide excellent barriers against noise pollution.

Soil that might otherwise be lost to wind and water is held in place by the deep roots of trees. By slowing water runoff, forests help the surrounding land absorb more water. Global forest product trade is near $400 million, and 30 percent of forests worldwide saw exclusive use for the harvest of forest product, illustrating the economic importance of forests. In addition to timber, forest products include foods, rubber, resins and medicinal products.