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Ecosystem Services – Forests

August 31 2015 - by Dr. David Lee, CLP's Environment Specialist

This is the second in the series of blogs on ecosystem services.   Today, let’s look at forests and some of the services that nature provides.  Sometimes we don’t see the forests for the trees.  

Natural forests provide ecosystem services that are important for national development.  Forests are natural ecosystems which perform many important functions.  Arguably, their most essential is their watershed function.  Forests and the trees within have been shown to attract and capture rainfall.  Water captured is channelled underground into aquifers, and also appear as springs and rivers.  

Significant reduction in forest cover will result in reduced humidity and a generally hotter climate, lower rainfall, less productive or run-dry wells, reduced flow and the drying up of rivers. Less groundwater and surface water mean less water available for agricultural, industrial, commercial and domestic use.  Water shortages can be a threat to public health and can slow down or reverse economic growth.  Also, reduced forest cover may lead to soil erosion, as whenever there is rainfall it washes away topsoil.  This is not good for agriculture.

TreesForests have other important functions.  Forest ecosystems are important reservoirs of animal and plant biodiversity, including birds, reptiles and insects.  The trees in the forests produce oxygen, without which we humans cannot survive. Forests have, therefore, been referred to as the “lungs” of the world.  Trees extract carbon dioxide - a greenhouse gas causing global warming - from the air through photosynthesis and use it for their own growth and development.  The removal of carbon dioxide, also called carbon-sequestration, is an important tool for combatting climate change. Forests are also an important source of firewood and charcoal, timber for furniture and construction, and poles for scaffolding, fence posts and yam sticks.  All of these functions can be economically and environmentally sustainable if forests are conserved and managed properly.

Forests do not send bills for the contribution to agriculture, industry, commerce, public health, water supply, oxygen supply, fuel, lumber, climate change management, etc. but if we need these services then we need to keep and manage our forests.  

Do we value our forests?
Do we value them enough to understand that they are our treasures?
Do we understand that our economic development is tied to the health of our forests and the ecosystem services they provide?
What are YOU doing to manage our resources?
If this blog has served as an eye-opener for you, what is one concrete action that you commit to taking starting today?