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Forest has been the basis of existence of biotic components in the ecosystem. It is beneficial in every aspect of sustainable living and has provided various good and services which can be described as follows:
There are a number of components to the broad range of ecological services that forests provide. According to Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety (1995), these include (c.f., World Bank 1997):
Clearly, forests form the basis of a variety of industries including timber, processed wood and paper, rubber, and fruits. However, they also contain products that are necessary to the viability of rural agricultural communities. These products include fuel and fodder, game, fruits, building materials, medicines and herbs (Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety 1995). Additionally, grazing occurs within forests, and local woodlands are used to satisfy basic needs. Rural people also grow crops on temporary plots within the forest, often on a rotational basis. These forest products contribute to a diverse rural economy and security when times are difficult. Therefore, the loss of these resources undermines the viability of agricultural practices in the developing world (Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety 1995).
Knudston and Suzuki (1992) have explored the protective function of culture within a comparative perspective. Others note that, for millennia, humanity has had a social and cultural basis for protecting nature. Forests are home to millions of people world-wide, and many of these people are dependent on the forests for their survival (Sousson, Shrestha and Uprety 1995). In addition, many people have strong cultural and spiritual attachments to the forests. Therefore, forest destruction undermines the capacities of these people to survive economically, culturally and spiritually.
The issue of indigenous knowledge is also important. Many local people understand how to conserve and use forest resources. It has been argued that forests currently are being destroyed, in part, because of the non-forest dwellers’ lack of knowledge about how best to exploit the vast diversity of medicines, foods, natural fertilizers and pesticides that forests contain (Posey 1993). Spirituality is important as well. The Hindu viewpoint on nature, for example, is based on a recognition that nature and its orders of life (such as trees, forests and animals) are all bound to each other. Thus we can understand services of forests within the Hindu cosmology to include religious values. Other indigenous cosmologies involve a highly-important role for forests and other components of the natural world. Thus, indigenous belief systems have a major protective role in a culture’s relationships with the natural world, and in nature’s relationship with a culture.
This more general set of services highlights ideas of aesthetics and beauty as components of services of forests. For example, the Himalayas provide a service within this context, and one within which ecotourism operates. From a tourist’s perspective, these values may be high on their decision making priorities, which would indicate protection of these services are important for ecotourism. Scenic and landscape values also may be important for residents.
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