Often we do not realize the tremendous importance of forests to the human society. Apart from providing a number of products forests perform an irreplaceable ecological service. In brief, the diverse functions of forests can be stated as follows:
1. Forests provide a number of products such as timber, firewood, nuts, fruits and seeds, medicinal plants etc. without which human life shall become miserable.
2. Forests shape natural environment by influencing such factors as temperature, humidity and precipitation.
3. Forests shape the soil environment by affecting its composition, structure, the chemical properties, water contents etc. and play an important role in bio-geo-chemical cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulphur and a number of other elements.
4. Forests help in checking soil erosion by obstructing currents of water or air. Roots of plants bind the soil particles together in larger lumps which are helpful in preventing erosion.
5. Forests influence flood conditions by intercepting surface runoffs, infiltration, evaporation etc. which is helpful in water retention by the soil and in recharging ground water resources.
6. Forests help in public health protection by reducing physical and chemical contaminants of the environment. Forest soils and vegetation acts as an effective sink for a number of pollutants.
7. Forests provide suitable habitats for a number of important plant and animal species. They help in maintaining a broad genetic base from which future strains and varieties could be developed.