Importance of Forests | WWF
	© WWF / John Kabubu

Importance of forests

The importance of forests cannot be underestimated. We depend on forests for our survival, from the air we breathe to the wood we use. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change. Yet, despite our dependence on forests, we are still allowing them to disappear.
	© Brent Stirton / Getty Images
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images

From the air we breathe to the wood we love

30% of land surface is forest
Just think of how forests have affected your life today: Have you had your breakfast? Read a newspaper? Switched on a light? Travelled to work in a bus or car? Signed a cheque? Made a shopping list? Got a parking ticket? Blown your nose into a tissue? Forest products are used in our daily lives.

2 billion people rely on forests

All the activities listed above directly or indirectly involve forests. Some are easy to figure out - fruits, paper and wood from trees, and so on. Others are less obvious - by-products that go into the manufacture of other everyday items like medicines, cosmetics and detergents.

Habitats for biodiversity and livelihood for humans

But looking at it beyond our narrow, human, not to mention urban, perspective, forests provide habitats to diverse animal species, and they also form the source of livelihood for many different human settlements as well as for governments.

300 million people live inforests

They offer watershed protection, timber and non-timber products, and various recreational options. They prevent soil erosion, help in maintaining the water cycle, and check global warming by using carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. 

13 million people employed in forest sector

Yet we are losing them

Between 1990 and 2015, the world lost some 129 million ha of forest, an area the size of South Africa. When we take away the forest, it is not just the trees that go. The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart, with dire consequences for all of us. 

Forest services

After oceans, forests are the world’s largest storehouses of carbon. They provide ecosystem services that are critical to human welfare. These include:
  • Absorbing harmful greenhouse gasses that produce climate change. In tropical forests alone, a quarter of a trillion tons of carbon is stored in above and below ground biomass
  • Providing clean water for drinking, bathing, and other household needs
  • Protecting watersheds and reducing or slowing the amount of erosion and chemicals that reach waterways
  • Providing food and medicine
  • Serving as a buffer in natural disasters like flood and rainfalls
  • Providing habitat to more than half of the world’s land-based species
	© Victor Mamontov / WWF-Russia
The scope and scale of illegal logging in the Ussuri Taiga is imperiling the long-term survival of the Amur tiger and the livelihoods of thousands of forest villagers and indigenous peoples
© Victor Mamontov / WWF-Russia
	© Tanya Petersen  WWF
Conservation Easment, Catskill Delawere watershed. New York State. Without the protection of surrounding forests, watershed would no longer exists and water would become scarce in New York City. For many cities time is running out. Protecting water catchment areas is no longer a luxury but a necessit
© Tanya Petersen WWF

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions