Why Do Forests Matter?

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

1. Forests are some of the richest, most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet.

Located in equatorial Asia, Africa, and South America, tropical rainforests are the world’s oldest biome, and harness 80% of the entire Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity. Some modern rainforests have existed for over 50 million years, distinguishing them with remarkable biodiversity and an incredible abundance of life.

Why exactly is biodiversity~ “diversity within and among species”~ so important? As one study wisely puts it, “Biodiversity is integral to almost all ecosystem processes, with some species playing key functional roles that are essential for maintaining the value of ecosystems to humans.”

The services provided by biologically diverse, thriving forest ecosystems~ carbon storage, pollination, biological pest control, seed dispersal, reduction of invasive species, formation of healthy soil, etc.~ are enormously important to agriculture, climate regulation, and Earth’s biogeochemical cycles (like the water & carbon cycles.)

2. Some forests aren’t tropical, & they still matter.

Coniferous forests ~ Northern latitude ecosystems with cone-bearing trees, like pines and firs ~ and Temperate forests ~ consisting of coniferous & broad-leaved trees, like oaks & elms ~ deliver important ecosystem services that influence agriculture, climate regulation, and the carbon and water cycles as well.

3. Next time you drink water, or eat, thank a forest.

Trees enhance soil quality and improve land arability by filtering harmful pollutants and delivering vital nutrientsvital processes for world agriculture and global food production. Additionally, root systems and plant transpiration reduce moisture and stabilize soil, protecting watersheds by preventing erosion and mudslides.

4. They also provide us with oxygen to breathe.

Photosynthesis~ the process used by plants to create energy, by converting sunlight and CO2 into sugars ~ releases oxygen as a byproduct. While photosynthetic marine organisms produce the majority of Earth’s oxygen, about one-third can be attributed to our world’s rainforests. Rainforests are very important, as constant rain and prevailing warm temperatures cause plants to flourish year-round. This abundant plant growth causes rainforests to uptake more carbon dioxide and release more oxygen per unit area than any other biome, appropriately nicknaming them “Earth’s lungs.”

5. Biogeochemical Cycles ~ The Water & Carbon Cycles

Biogeochemical cycles describe the cyclical movement of important substances & elements~ like water and carbon~ through the external environment, to the living parts of ecosystems, and then back to environmental reservoirs.

The Water Cycle is a biogeochemical cycle that transports water~ solar energy evaporates it from oceans to the atmosphere, and precipitation delivers it back to land as rain and snow, where it drains into ground and freshwater resources, & flows back out to the oceans. Read more about the water cycle here.

Forests play a vital role in this cycle, as water not only evaporates into the atmosphere from the surface of the ocean, but from small pores on the underside of plant leaves, in a process called transpiration. Studies show that while the oceans and other bodies of water provide almost 90% of our atmosphere’s water, about 10% of moisture in the atmosphere results from plant transpiration.

The Carbon Cycle, defined by The United States Forest Service as, “the exchange of carbon between all of the earth’s components—the atmosphere, oceans and rivers, rocks and sediments, and living things,” is another biogeochemical cycle that forests play an enormously important role in.

Forests in the United States absorb and sequester about 750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year ~ equivalent to 10% of the country’s CO2 emissions.

Plants absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, storing carbon above and below the ground and acting as a sink for the vital and abundant element. This is important not only for perpetuating the carbon cycle, but also for offsetting the impacts of climate change ~ by storing carbon in leaves, branches, stems, and other plant parts, trees play a key role in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Read more in detail about the carbon cycle here.

6. Additionally, here are just a few of the products we enjoy, that contain ingredients from trees…

Tape, chewing gum, charcoal, fruit, acetone, medicines and cosmetics, cardboard, helmets, shampoo, shaving cream, timber, disinfectants, resin, paints, construction materials, natural dyes, vacuum cleaners, airplane propellers, sponges, latex gloves, boardwalks, chairs, blankets, egg cartons, oil filters, toothpaste, playing cards, toilet paper, cabinets, matches, decks, juice cartons, magazines, life buoys, musical instruments, ceiling tiles, twine, insulation board, books, popsicle sticks, adhesives, syrup, lamp shades, puzzles, coffee filters, napkins, sandpaper, toys, bridges, bath mats, calendars, cellophane, baseballs, tea bags, electrical insulation, essential oils, ceramics, fuel, wallpaper, photo film, roofing, synthetic rubber, some pet and baby foods, crayons… & treehouses.


Starr, C., Evers, C. A., & Starr, L. (2016). Biology: today & tomorrow. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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