As the forest products are commercial in nature, they have a global, commercial potential; they are on the increase, as well. Japan and the West European countries import timber products in very large quantities. Timber industry is likely to grow, according to the experts, to 6 billion trees from the present 3 billion trees. In the developed countries, 200 million tonnes of wood pulp is produced. As the literacy is increasing in the developing countries, there is greater use of newsprint. In countries like Brazil and India, the use of newsprint has already doubled.
As hard wood is required for industrial purposes, it is mostly obtained from the tropical forests. Wood is exported in great quantities from the Southeast Asian countries. In these countries, more than half the trees in the forests have been felled for this purpose. Only in recent times, the Governments of these countries have taken efforts towards preventing the destruction of the forests.
Twelve million hectares of forests are being cut every year, for use by human beings. The area of annual forest destruction is estimated at an area which is as big as the United Kingdom. The fast declining forests have brought in changes in the functions of ecosystems. A forest being destroyed for meeting the needs of the humankind can be replaced in about 10 years. On the contrary, the areas of deforestation used by humans for agriculture and settlements usher in changes in the ecosystem configurations.
Problems. If the vegetation systems at the watershed areas are destroyed, they give rise to several problems. As long as the forests in these areas survive, the waters of the rivers could be pure and clear. But as we destroy the forests in these areas, there could be floods and droughts in the low reaches. Furthermore, as a result of soil erosion along the slopes, there is siltation in the floodplains.
With the siltation, dams where hydroelectricity is produced and fishing are greatly affected.
With the destruction of tropical forests, the climate is also impacted upon. The forest ecosystems of the Amazon absorb most of the solar radiation. As it is destroyed, progressively, the area is heated up by the radiation which in turn heats the atmosphere; this affects the atmospheric equilibrium. This is thus a reason for global warming.
Forest Management. Tropical and temperate ecosystems consist of different biomes. As such, the managerial strategies must differ as well. To protect the ecosystems, the following strategies are being followed: Renewal of the watershed, social forestry and sustainable systems.
Renewal of the Watershed. Several countries of the world have come to realise the importance of the forests. In response, they have begun to renew the forests of the watersheds. But such efforts are a few and at small scales. It is expected that such strategies would become widespread.
Social Forestry. Internationally, such forests have been welcomed in several countries. The governments of these countries motivate their people to grow social forestry to meet the needs of fuelwood. In India, in the several states of the Union, school children grow trees under this programme.
Sustainable System. Agro-forests have become in many places sustaining systems. In these forests, crops and trees are grown side by side. Unutilised forest areas and the field edges have now become important resources for increasing crop productivity. Particular tree varieties help fix nitrogen in the soil. As a consequence, lands of low quality are turned into lands that could be utilised for cropping.