Concept: Importance of Forests and their Conservation
- Forests form an indispensable part of Earth. They act as a habitat for most life forms on this planet.
- Forests also play a vital role in the proper functioning of our ecosystem.
- They are the ultimate producers of some important things required for the existence of life on Earth.
Importance of forests:
- Act as oxygen reservoirs:
- Plants perform photosynthesis and thereby are capable of producing oxygen, which no one else can do except a few algae.
- Hence, life on Earth largely depends on the oxygen provided by forests.
- A mature leaf can synthesise oxygen sufficient enough for 5-10 people per day.
- Habitats of animals and humans:
- We all know that the maximum number of animal and plant species grow and live in forests.
- Apart from this, forests worldwide are inhabited by different human tribes who depend on forests for their livelihood.
- Forests are sacred for such tribes and integral to their lives.
- Control temperature:
- The evaporation of water from the stomatal pores present on leaves is called transpiration.
- Transpiration produces a cooling effect, which helps in keeping the surroundings cool.
- For the same reason, we feel cooler near a tree than in other open areas during summer.
- Trees and plants can manage the level of carbon dioxide in the air by using it during photosynthesis.
- The rising level of carbon dioxide leads to global warming because carbon dioxide absorbs heat from the sun.
- This phenomenon is necessary on a small scale to maintain an optimum temperature on Earth. However, suppose the carbon dioxide levels increase rapidly. In that case, it may lead to a sudden rise in the Earth’s temperature, which would have an adverse impact on the living world.
- So, forests are necessary to control global warming and its harmful effects.
- Water lost during transpiration by plants plays an integral role in cloud formation and hence helps in bringing rain.
- Dense forests like the Amazon rainforest have a micro-climate zone of their own, which includes heavy rainfall at regular intervals that support the massive biodiversity in the region.
- The roots of trees penetrate deep into the soil layers and help absorb the extra water that the natural water reserves like rivers cannot accommodate.
- Hence, trees prevent the overflowing of extra water during rains which is responsible for floods.
- Also, the roots hold the soil firmly and prevent it from washing away with the water current.
- The roots of the plants have a firm grip on the soil, thereby reducing the chances of landslides in mountainous areas.
- The water reserve found in the deeper layers of soil is called aquifers.
- The water from aquifers is pumped out for various reasons and is an excellent source of fresh water.
- The trees maintain the level of fresh water in an aquifer. The roots of trees absorb the water and help refill the aquifer.
- Farmers use long trees as shelter belts around their farming lands.
- Trees help block gusty winds, which adversely affect crops and also lead to soil erosion.
- Also, insects can pollinate the plants when the wind speed is moderate.
- Trees act as absorbers of sound waves.
- They help absorb the harsh sounds and do not let them travel long distances.
- Hence, forests help in reducing the overall level of noise pollution.
- Forests provide food, fruits, medicines, herbs, and fodder, which are helpful for both man and animals.
- Forests are the source of raw materials for various industries.
- Pharmaceutical, paper, matchstick, plywood, rubber, and food industries are directly dependent on forests for the supply of raw materials.
Reasons for the depletion of forests:
- Industrialisation means setting up industries on a massive scale.
- However, to build industries, one has to get hold of large vacant plots, and for this reason, forests are cleared extensively.
- With an increase in the number of people, there is a sharp increase in the demand for land, food, and other essential items.
- To meet these demands, the production of these materials has to be increased, for which forests are being cleared out rapidly.
- To meet the demand for food due to the increasing population, there is an urgent need to expand the agricultural lands, which in turn, is forcing people to cut down trees.
- With more people migrating towards cities in search of jobs, education, and a better lifestyle, the forest covers near the urban areas are reducing on a large scale.
- As human settlements are increasing, the need for proper connecting routes or channels is also increasing.
- Roadways and railways are developed, leading to the clearing of forest covers on a large scale.
- Dams play a crucial role in energy production for our country.
- However, looking at the vast infrastructure, these dams require large areas to be developed for which the forested lands are cleared.
- The Earth is a reservoir of a lot of minerals that are extracted and used after processing.
- The mineral extraction requires clearing forest land as mining is impossible on land covered with large trees.
Conservation of forests:
- Forests play a vital role in creating a balance in the ecosystem, either directly or indirectly.
- They should be conserved because of the following reasons—
- For balancing the level of life-supporting gases—oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- To ensure enough rainfall and prevent natural calamities like droughts and landslides.
- To maintain the level of groundwater and avoid soil erosion and floods.
- To provide a natural habitat for animals and plants to live and grow.
- To have a balance in the food chain and ecosystem.
- People have played a role in saving the forests from time to time.
- Presently, many nature-based drives are conducted to send a message to the people about the importance of forests. An example of one such mass drive was the Chipko Movement.
- This movement came into existence in the 1970s and aimed at preventing large-scale cutting of forests due to industrialisation.
- The people of Uttrakhand started the movement, and Sundar Lal Bhauguna was one of the important leaders who led this movement.
- People hugged the trees as a symbol of protection to prevent them from being cut down.
Measures for the protection of the forests:
- As India is a developing country, one would see a significant development of smart cities, roadways, railways, and many more in the coming years. All these activities would require land. However, a few things can be kept in mind while planning these construction works. Some of them are as follows—
- Setting up industries on the barren lands.
- Covering the landfills with parks and trees.
- Ensuring planting tree belts around large buildings like malls, schools, and residential societies.
- Replacing the number of trees cleared for constructing highways by replanting them in available areas.
- Recycling the goods made out of raw material from forests such as paper, cardboard, furniture, etc.
Barren: A piece of land not suitable for cultivation.
Industrialisation: Setting up of industries in a region on a large scale.
Urbanisation: The migration of people from rural areas to urban areas.
Did You Know?
- 8.5 % of the Earth’s forests are located in Canada.
- Research states that spending time in forests makes us happy and boosts the activity of the immune system.
- One can find approximately 480 species of trees in one hectare of tropical rainforest.
- Every fourth person on our planet relies on the forest for livelihood and survival. Deforestation has a worse impact on the life of such people.