Natural forests plays, perhaps the most important role in sustaining life on earth and balancing the ecosystem in a multitude of ways like water recycling and preventing soil erosion. The benefits that an intact forest provides to humanity are immense, which are often considered free and largely go unrecognized and uncounted for until they are lost . This essay will analyze some of the major services provided and roles played by the natural forest in ensuring the existence of life on this planet.
Service 1: Maintaining the Water cycle- Forests plays a major role in ensuring effective water pumping and recycling, which helps in maintaining the local climate . Also, forests are crucial link in the planet’s continuous water movement cycle.
Service 2: Oxygen Supply- Forests ensure the availability of oxygen in earth through photosynthesis. In this process, the plants or trees absorb carbon dioxide and releases oxygen into the atmosphere.
Service 3: Preventing soil erosion- Without forests, the nutrient rich top layer soil that facilitates cultivation will be washed away by rain and wind. Forests provide a protective cover to the soil from other forces of nature. Also their roots hold soil in place, further stemming erosion .
Service 4: Land-sea Link- Mangrove forests and coastal wetlands that play a major role in linking land and sea buffer the coastal areas from storms and beach erosions, cycle nutrients, serve as nurseries for coastal and marine fisheries and supply critical resources to local communities . They even protect the land by acting as a natural buffer from natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes.
Service 5: Climate and atmosphere regulation- Forests are crucial for maintaining the climate, both locally and globally. Removal of forest cover will result in the area getting hotter and drier which ultimately leads to desertification of the area.
Service 6: Maintaining the ecosystem- Forests, as mentioned earlier plays perhaps the most crucial role in maintaining the ecosystem. There are so many dependent factors on forests that its destruction will result in a fatal imbalance which will ultimately make this planet inhabitable.
Unfortunately, the benefits provided by forests are largely ignored or people are rather ignorant about its value. There are even nations which believe forests are a dead investment and had initiated steps to what they believe the ‘better utilization’ of the land available through cutting down the forests and replacing them with cash generating crops or maximizing the production of a single commodity such as timber. The services provided by forests can be considered as free as long as they are used wisely and judiciously and are not exploited beyond their breaking point. Nature has gifted humans with abundance of everything, only his greed is standing in the way of an amiable co-existence of the various elements.
Costanza, along with the co-authors in their article ‘The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital’ have tried to gauge the total economic value of the services of ecological systems and the natural capital stocks that produce them. Their study has revealed that the annual value of these services is $16-54 Trillion, with an estimated average of $33 Trillion . In addition to this, the authors have also noted the necessity of developing ecological and economic models and identifying the interdependency among them . In order to identify the interdependency, it is also required to understand their complex individual dynamics . It is true that the economic valuation approach adopted by Costanza is beneficial to the assessment in that, it throws light on the value of nature and helps to understand the trade off when cuts a tree for any reason. The valuation has helped the world to understand that the services provided by nature are not free and there is a huge cost hiding behind that. This will help nations that went after the better land utilization to re-think on their move and make them sit and think about the necessity of protecting the nature and taking steps to avoid the over exploitation of the nature’s resources. However, as pointed out earlier, the ecosystem-economy interdependency should also be factored in while making the final assessment.
Abramovitz, Janet N. "Putting a Value on Nature's Free Services." World Watch (1998): 10-19. Document.
Marino Gatto, Guilio A. De Leo. "Pricing Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: The Never-Ending Story." BioScience (2000): 347-355. Document.
Robert Costanza, Ralph d' Arge, Rudolf de Groot, Stephen Farber, Monica Grasso, Bruce Hannon, Karin Limburg, Shahid Naeem, Jose Paruelo, Paul Sutton. "The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital." Nature (1997): 253-260. Document.