forest resources use and overexploitation

In India, forests form 23 percent of the total land area. The word ‘forest’ is derived from the Latin word ‘foris’ means ‘outside’ (may be the reference was to a village boundary or fence separating the village and the forest land).

A forest is a natural, self-sustaining community characterized by vertical struc­ture created by presence of trees. Trees are large, generally single-stemmed, woody plants. Forest can exist in many different regions under a wide range of conditions, but all true forests share these physical characteristics.

Because a forest is a natural community, no forest is static in time. That is, because forest communities respond to outside influences, most forests are in a state of constant flux. Depending upon the systems within which forest commu­nities exist, such factors might include rainfall, fire, wind, glaciation, seismic activity, flooding, animal activity, insulation, and so on.

At any time, a forest is a collection of past responses to outside influences and internal competitive interactions. Therefore, the present status of any forest, indeed of any natural community, reflects what has gone on before.

Use and Over Exploitation:

A forest is a biotic community predominantly of trees, shrubs and other woody vegetation, usually with a closed canopy. This invaluable renewable natural resource is beneficial to man in many ways.

The direct benefits from forests are:

(a) Fuel Wood:

Wood is used as a source of energy for cooking purpose and for keeping warm.

(b) Timber:

Wood is used for making furniture, tool-handles, railway sleep­ers, matches, ploughs, bridges, boats etc.

(c) Bamboos:

These are used for matting, flooring, baskets, ropes, rafts, cots etc.

(d) Food:

Fruits, leaves, roots and tubers of plants and meat of forest animals form the food of forest tribes.

(e) Shelter:

Mosses, ferns, insects, birds, reptiles, mammals and micro-organ­isms are provided shelter by forests.

(f) Paper:

Wood and Bamboo pulp are used for manufacturing paper (News­print, stationery, packing paper, sanitary paper)

(g) Rayon:

Bamboo and wood are used in the manufacture of rayon (yarns, artificial silk-fibres)

(h) Forest Products:

Tannins, gums, drugs, spices, insecticides, waxes, honey, horns, musk, ivory, hides etc. are all provided by the flora and fauna of for­ests.

The indirect benefits from forests are:

(a) Conservation of Soil:

Forests prevent soil erosion by binding the soil with the network of roots of the different plants and reduce the velocity of wind and rain — which are the chief agents causing erosion.

(b) Soil-improvement:

The fertility of the soil increases due to the humus which is formed by the decay of forest litter.

(c) Reduction of Atmospheric Pollution:

By using up carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen during the process of photosynthesis, forests reduce pollu­tion and purify the environment.

(d) Control of Climate:

Transpiration of plants increases the atmospheric humidity which affects rainfall and cools the atmosphere.

(e) Control of Water flow:

In the forests, the thick layer of humus acts like a big sponge and soaks rain water preventing run-off, thereby preventing flash-floods. Humus prevents quick evaporation of water, thereby ensuring a perennial supply of water to streams, springs and wells.

Human Interactions with Forests:

Human are indisputably a part of most forests. With the exception of extremely inaccessible forestlands, all forests present on Earth today have been influ­enced by human being for tens of thousands of years. In many cases, forest communities have never been without the influence of human activities.

Because of the widespread nature of human, activity in forests, it is tempting to think of human endeavor as one more outside factor influencing forest develop­ment. This approach is misleading, however, since it denies the role of self- awareness in human activity. Because human beings can understand cause and effect, and because we have amassed an increasingly deep body of knowledge about forest processes over the past ten millennia, human influences simply cannot be likened to the blind forces of nature.

Since pre-history, human beings have realized benefits from forested lands in the form of spiritual values, medicines, shelter, food, materials, fuel and more. Often, humans have sought to manipulate natural processes so as to compel forest systems to produce more of the goods and services desired by people.

Examples range from culturally modified trees and edge habitat maintained by the Haida and others in west-coastal North America to Pre-Colombian enrich­ment planting of Brazil nut trees in the Amazon to traditional coppice manage­ment in the English lowlands.

At times, human management has become as intensive as to become the primary set of factors under which the forest system operates. Such systems move towards the near total human control found in agricultural systems and cannot be thought of as forests in any natural sense, although they may continue to resemble forests superficially.

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