A forest is a large tract of land which is covered with trees and vegetation. Different parts of the world have different kinds of forests, depending upon the climatic conditions.
A forest has multiple layers that form its structure.
The tall trees which have straight branches and pointed leaves have a crown at the top. The crown is the topmost part of the tree, so it is always exposed to sunlight.
Canopy is the outer layer of leaves. It does not permit the sunlight and rain from penetrating into the layers beneath.
Different sizes and types of crowns form horizontal layers in the forest, which is called understorey. This layer has very little sunlight, with mould and algae on the trunks and leaves.
The forest floor is totally covered with dead and decaying organic matter. The root system of the plant which helps water to percolate into the soil is found on the forest floor.
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Forests are an essential part of the terrestrial ecosystem. They cover nearly one-third of the total land on the earth and provide a vital organic infrastructure for the diversity of life. As the population of the world is increasing, humans are clearing millions of acres of forest every year. Thus, deforestation is a serious threat to some of the most valuable ecosystems of the earth.
They help us to breathe
Forests absorb the carbon dioxide exhaled by us and pump out oxygen. They help in maintaining the balance in the atmosphere.
Home to many species
80% of all biodiversity found on land is present in forests, especially in tropical rainforests. Insects, worms, birds, carnivorous animals, etc. are all found in forests.
Large tracts of forests can tackle the problem of increasing heat by regulating regional temperatures.
Regulating rainfall patterns
Forests do influence the regional weather patterns and have their own microclimates.
The roots of trees help the ground to absorb more water in a flood. They also produce the loss of soil and slow down the flow of water.
Forests provide a variety of products such as timber, paper, turpentine, medicines, fruits, nuts, seeds etc.
Natural beauty is the most obvious benefit that forest offers. The innate attraction to forests is called biophilia.
Forest conservation is the practice of planting more trees and maintaining the forested areas for the sustainability and benefit of future generations. Forests are vital for the sustenance of human life, therefore, there needs to be an increasing awareness regarding their conservation.
Deforestation cannot be totally stopped, but it can be controlled.
Control the deforestation
Care should be taken that young trees are not cut as far as possible. Commercial deforestation should also be checked. Practices such as selective cutting and planned harvesting of forests can be employed for optimally extracting the benefits of a forest.
Using better farming practices
Farming practices such as slash and burn agriculture are particularly harmful to the environment and forests. They need to be kept under control.
Protection against forest fires
The forest authority should take adequate precautions against forest fires. The dry leaves and trees must be regularly cleared out, and chemicals to control fire should be kept handy. In case of any such incident, fire extinguishing solutions must be sprayed.
Overgrazing should be regulated
Uncontrolled grazing by animals is detrimental to the forest. Forest areas meant only for the purpose of grazing should be demarcated, so that damage is not caused to the remaining areas.
Involving the local communities
Forests are homes to many tribal communities. These communities have a very organic relationship with the forests, and most of their livelihoods are also forests dependent. It is therefore imperative to involve their participation in the conservation of forests.
1. What is deforestation? What are its causes?
Forests are vanishing day by day, in order to satisfy the selfish needs of humans. The cutting down of trees in large numbers is called deforestation. Some important causes of deforestation are:
As the demand for food products is rising, trees are being chopped down for crops and cattle grazing.
The mining of coal and oil requires large amounts of forest land.
As the population of the world is continuously rising, there is a need for more space to construct houses and expand industries.
Production of timber
Timber is a valuable product, which is also the source of raw material for various industries.
A large number of trees each year are lost due to forest fires.
2. What are the effects of deforestation?
Deforestation is a phenomenon that will have a very adverse effect on the planet in the long run. Some of the effects are as follows:
Emission of greenhouse gases
Greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide do not allow the heat of the Earth to return back to space. Therefore, they lead to a change in the climate. Forests are great absorbers of carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the atmosphere.
As forests are cleared, the soil becomes more exposed to the heat of the sun, which dries the moisture present in it. As the nutrients evaporate, the bacterial activity of decomposition of organic matter is severely affected. As a result, the rainwater is able to wash off the surface and soil erosion takes place on a large scale.
Loss of biodiversity
Deforestation changes land to an extent that the plants and animals living in the forest might just not be able to survive. In an ecosystem, each species is dependent on other species. The continual loss of biodiversity can have far-reaching consequences.
The roots of trees help in better percolation of water into the soil. In the absence of forests, frequent floods can take place.