Productive Functions of the Forests
1. Forests are valuable natural resources. The goods provided by the forests are of immense importance to animals and mankind. Wood is a major forest produce and it is extensively used for various purposes. In India, most of wood produced is used for construction of house, agricultural implements, bridges, sleepers, etc. In India about 12.5 million cubic metres of timber is produced from the forest. Many species e.g. teak, sal, deodar, sissoo, babul, chir, haldu, axlewood, rosewood, dipterocarps, etc yield valuable timber.
2. Wood is a universal fuel, Approximately 175 million cubic meters of wood is used as fuel in the country, most of which is obtained from the forests.
3. Forest provides raw material to a large number of industries e.g. paper and pulp, plywood and other board, saw mills, furniture making, packing cases, match boxes and toys.
4. A large number of non-wood products are also available from forests.
These are commonly called Minor Forest Products (M.E.P.) not because these are of minor significance but since they are harvested in smaller quantities. Some of the important minor forest products are as under:
(i) Fibros and Flosses: Fibros are obtained from best tissues of certain woody plants which are used for making ropes. Flosses are obtained from semal (Dombax ceiba) and kapuk (Ceiba pentandra).
(ii) Grasses and Bamboos: A large variety of grasses are found in the forests. About 20 per cent of 419 million livestock graze in the forests. Among valuable grasses, sabazi (Eulaliopsis binate) is harvested annually to the tune of about 80,000 tonnes. About 5.5 million tonnes of bamboo is harvested from our forests every year.
(iii) Essential Oils: India produces about 1500 tonnes of essential oils from forests every year. It utilizes in making soaps, perfumes, detergents and chemicals. Many species e.g. Eucalyptus spp., Bursera spp., Cymbopogon spp,Santalum album, etc. produce these oils.
(iv) Oil Seeds: Many tree species, e.g. Madhuca indica, Pongamia pinnata, Shorea robusta, Azadirachta indica, Schleichera oleosa, Vateria indica,etc. produce oil bearing seeds which are commercially important. Some of these oils can be made fit for human consumption. Presently these seeds are used in soap industry. Tribals use these oils for various purposes. There is a potential of production of about 1 million tonnes of oil every year from forest tree seeds.
(v) Tans and Dyes: A variety of vegetable tanning materials are produced in the forests. Important vegetable tanning materials are the myrobalan nuts and bark of wattles (Acacia mearnsiii, A. decurrens. A. nilotica and Cassia auriculata, etc. Katha and cutch are obtained from Acacia catechu trees.
(vi) Gums and Resins: Gums and resins are executed by trees as a result of wound or injury to the bark of wood. Gums are collected from several tree. Species, viz. Sterculia urens, Anogeissus latifolia, Lannea coromandelica, Acacia nilotica, Cochlospermum religiosum, Pterocarpus marsupium, Butea monosperma etc. Resin is obtained from Pinus roxburghii. (Chirpine)
(viii) Tendu Leaves and Other Leaves: Tendu leaves are used to produce bidi and therefore, these are also called bidi leaves. Annual collection of tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) leaves is about 90,000 tonnes in the country. Madhya Pradesh alone contributes about 45 per cent of this quantity. Leaves of trees such as, Bauhinia spp, Butea spp, etc. are used for making plates, drona, etc.
(ix) Edible Products: Fruits, flowers, seeds, tubers, etc. of several forest species are eaten. Anacardlum occidentale, Tamarindus indica. Syzygium cumini, Emblica officinalis, Buchanania lanzan, flowers of Madhuca indica, green pods of Moringa oleifera, new shoots of bamboo, etc. are in great demand.
(x) Lac and Other Products: Lac is a resinous secretion of the lac insects which feed on forest trees, particularly of Butea monosperme. Similarly, silk is another important product from forests. It is obtained from the cocoons of silk worm. Silk worm is raised on Terminalia alata and Morus alba plantations for obtaining silk. Honey is another product which is obtained from forests.
(xi) Fodder and Grazing: Forests provide fodder leaves and grazing facility to the rural animals. About 20 per cent livestock population depends upon forest grazing and leaf fodder supply. Leaf fodder of several tree species is almost as nutritious as that of agricultural fodder crops. Good fodder yielding tree species include; Ailanthus excelsa, Moringa leifera, Sesbania spp,Morus alba, Albizia excelsa, Moringa leifera, Sesbania spp., Morus alba, Albizia lebbeck, Leucaena leucocephala, Pongamia pinnata Hardwickia binata, etc.