Forests and the many varying trees of which they are composed have, since the very earliest days played an important part in the life of mankind. It is because of this that men have realized their value and have taken steps to preserve them and to prevent their wanton and useless destruction.From the primitive days of the wigman, the house on stilts or the African but, wood has been the basic material used for men’s housing to provide shelter from the animals. The wigwam and the African hut were built round a frame of timber. The elaborately attractive black and white houses of ‘Merrie England’ in the sixteenth century depended on wooden frames. even today, when steel girders from the frameworld of our huge modern buildings like those in the Raffles City in Singapore or the sky-scrapers of New York, wood still forms an important part of the smaller modern houses. Soft woods of all kinds are used fro frames and doors and a variety of hard woods for furniture.From earliest times too, wood has played a large part in transport.
A rolling tree trunk, very probably showed primitive man the possible use of the wheel, perhaps as important a discovery as that of fire. In the earliest days of the automobile, wood was essential in its construction, but even before that, trishaws, carts, carriages and wagons, all made of timber enabled man to move from place to place overland. Men were equally dependent on wood for crossing water ad through all the staged from the hollowed-out log and the small boat built round a wooden frame right up to the first great sailing ships which first crossed over oceans, all means of transport were wooden-framed and wooden-walled.Another very important use of forests is a modern one . This is the cutting up of logs and timber for use in the making of paper, particularly the kind of paper on which our daily newspapers are printed. The logs of wood, when cut, are ground up by hue machines and are turned into wood pulp. This, then undergoes certain chemical processes and paper is the end product.
When we realize how much daily news-print the world consumes, we can see how great is the need of timber for this purpose.As well as producing timber, certain forests provide important oils such as turpentine from the pine forests of North America or palm oil from the palm forests. Olive oil is produced from the olive tree. There are other products too. The American sugar maple provides sugar from its sap. Flock, for mattresses is produced by the forests of huge cotton trees in West Africa. Equally these same African forests provide the necessary shelter under which the cocoa bean can grow.Forests also prevent soil erosion. They protect it from winds blowing it away and form water washing it away. Forests, too, revitalize the soil and because of the addition of humus and vegetable matter, it does not degenerate and become barren. They also attract rain-clouds and in places where they have been cleared, deserts are likely to appear.Many wild animal and small insects find shelter under the protecting branches of forest trees.
A wide variety of climbing shrubs, flowers and creepers are also protected by them. Forests too, whether the tropical ones of South-East-Asia; whether the sweeping miles of north American pines or whether the softer deciduous forest of Europe provide men with beauty. A tree, of whatever kind is a wonderful of nature.It is because of the importance of forests that they should be preserved. In 1919, after the first great war, the wood shortage in Britain was very acute, because so much had been used in the war effort. The Forestry Commission was therefore, set up. This is a body which buys old woods and land, that is at present bare and turns them into modern forests using the latest scientific knowledge and equipment to help in this purpose.
The modern forester grows his trees just as the farmer grows his crops or the gardener, his vegetables. He plants and then thins them and finally, when they are fully grown, he cuts them down for timber. He always replaces the felled trees with young ones. In reforestation, natural trees must always be grown. The Oak tree which is indigenous to England would not grow in Malaysia. neither of course, do palm trees flourish intemperate climates. Countries all over the world are caring their forests in this way, to ensure the supply of timber which is so badly needed.