4. Forest Uses

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The biological, geographical and cultural diversity of forests and their utilization means that there are numerous possibilities for the classification of forest products, resources and activities when related to usage.

The importance of classifying forest benefits by use are many-fold. This classification needed in the multiple use management of forests (when organising forest uses spatially or temporarily so that the overall welfare can be increased or maximised). Each of the uses also may require their own development policies, management plans and research results to  form  the basis of management and policy.

The following classification is one from many possibilities:

1. wood production (all commercial and non-commercial wood utilization);

2. collecting non-wood forest production  berries, mushrooms and other non-wood resources (e.g. decorative lichen, forest flowers, herbs, birch sap etc);

3. hunting and game management;

4. grazing and rangeland management;

5. landscape  management and enjoyment;

6. outdoor recreation (non commercial, based on free access);

7. nature based tourism (recreational activities based on or related to commercial tourism enterprises);

8. carbon sequestration;

9. other protective functions of forests (protection of soils, water resources, regulating micro and macro climate etc), and

10. nature (biodiversity) conservation and preservation

Each of the ten major uses or product groups can further be disaggregated into more detailed components when their technical production (use) quantities and economic values are being explored. For example, disaggregated outdoor recreation activities and nature-based tourism activities could easily include 20 - 50 activities (i.e., hunting includes numerous different forms).

The protective functions of forests could be classified by the type of protection benefit provided (i.e., soil, water resources, fisheries, treeline forests, wind protection, urban air and noise protection, micro climate regulation etc.) and can be further disaggregated spatially.

Biodiversity conservation is the ultimate case in product multiplicity because of the almost unaccountable number of "products" (in the sense of species to be protected or maintained).

Statistics

The UN-ECE/FAO (1993) report included country-based material on the importance of forest functions (uses) employing the following classification: wood production, protection, water, grazing (range), hunting, nature conservation and recreation, and many other products other than wood. The new global forest resources assessment (FAO 2006) provides statistics on how the world forest area is allocated to designated functions of forests. These functions include production (wood and non-wood products) (34.1%), protection of soil and water (9.3%), conservation of biodiversity (11.2%), social services (recreation, tourism, education and conservation of cultural and spiritual sites) (3.7%), multiple purposes (33.8%) and none or unknown functions (7.8%).
 

The forest products, functions and forest uses discussed above are the results of human actions or otherwise related to human activities. Consequently, they are given significance by the value of the individuals engaged in the specific activities as well as by the collective (and sometimes conflicting) values of society at large. Some values are shared by society as a whole and some perhaps supported only by smaller groups. This variety of human motivations including the differences of cultural and economic systems implies that there are a multitude of values related to each forest use or product.

For example, one may quote the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCED 1992), which recognizes the intrinsic as well as the ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic values of biodiversity and its components.

In the above list of values relating to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) the economic values are expressed only as one group among a total of ten value bundles.  It is important to notice, that even the "economic" wood production (i.e., logging and silvicultural activities) is not thoroughly explained by mere market values, because there may be social, cultural, ethical, symbolic and professional values related to them as well.

Learn more about different and sometimes conflicting values that are important in forest policy (for example POLICY2 and 4).

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