In the past, timber production was regarded as the dominant function of forests. However, in recent years this perception has shifted to a more multi-functional and balanced view. Other forest functions and services, such as recreation, health and well-being, biological diversity, maintenance of ecosystem services and the mitigation of climate change are increasingly recognized as integral components of sustainable forest management and forest biological diversity as both a complex and unique element.
Forests are one of the most biologically rich terrestrial systems. Together, tropical, temperate and boreal forests offer diverse sets of habitats for plants, animals and micro-organisms, and harbour the vast majority of the world’s terrestrial species. Furthermore, forest biodiversity is interlinked to a web of other socio-economic factors, providing an array of goods and services that range from timber and non-timber forest resources to mitigating climate change and genetic resources. At the same time, forests provide livelihoods for people worldwide and play important economic, social, and cultural roles in the lives of many indigenous communities. Therefore, forests and forest biological diversity are innately linked to ecosystem and human well-being.
For a better understanding of the critical values provided by forest biodiversity, see Vital Forest Graphics