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| Last Updated:: 23/05/2017

Forest : About Forest

The forest is a complex ecosystem consisting mainly of trees that buffer the earth and support a myriad of life forms. The trees help create a special environment which, in turn, affects the kinds of animals and plants that can exist in the forest. Trees are an important component of the environment. They clean the air, cool it on hot days, conserve heat at night, and act as excellent sound absorbers.


Plants provide a protective canopy that lessens the impact of raindrops on the soil, thereby reducing soil erosion. The layer of leaves that fall around the tree prevents runoff and allows the water to percolate into the soil. Roots help to hold the soil in place. Dead plants decompose to form humus, organic matter that holds the water and provides nutrients to the soil. Plants provide habitat to different types of organisms. Birds build their nests on the branches of trees, animals and birds live in the hollows, insects and other organisms live in various parts of the plant. They produce large quantities of oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. Transpiration from the forests affects the relative humidity and precipitation in a place.


The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) has defined forest as land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% and area of more than 0.5 hectare. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 m at maturity in situ. Forests are further subdivided into plantations and natural forests. Natural forests are forests composed mainly of indigenous trees not deliberately planted. Plantations are forest stands established by planting or seeding, or both, in the process of afforestation or reforestation.


Forests can develop wherever the average temperature is greater then 10 °C in the warmest month and rainfall exceeds 200 mm annually. In any area having conditions above this range there exists a variety of tree species grouped into a number of forest types that are determined by the specific conditions of the environment there, including the climate, soil, geology, and biotic activity. Forests can be broadly classified into types such as the taiga (consisting of pines, spruce, etc.), the mixed temperate forests (with both coniferous and deciduous trees), the temperate forests, the sub tropical forests, the tropical forests, and the equatorial rainforests.


The six major groups of forest in India are moist tropical, dry tropical, montane sub tropical, montane temperate, sub alpine, and alpine. These are subdivided into 16 major types of forests.


India has a long history of traditional conservation and forest management practices. Under British rule, forest management systems were set in place mainly to exploit forests. Nonetheless, there were some attempts to conserve forests and meet the needs of local communities. The Indian National Forest Policy of 1894 provided the impetus to conserve India’s forests wealth with the prime objectives of maintaining environmental stability and meeting the basic needs of the fringe forests user-groups. Consequently, forests were classified into four broad categories, namely forests for preservation of environmental stability, forests for providing timber supplies, forests for minor forest produce, and pasture lands. While the first two categories were declared as reserve forests, the rest were designated as protected forests and managed in the interests of the local communities.


Soon after independence, rapid development and progress saw large forest tracts fragmented by roads, canals, and townships. There was an increase in the exploitation of forest wealth. In 1950 the Government of India began the annual festival of tree planting called the Vanamahotsava. Gujarat was the first state to implement it. However, it was only in the 1970s that greater impetus was given to the conservation of India's forests and wildlife. India was one of the first countries in the world to have introduced a social forestry programme to introduce trees in non-forested areas along road sides, canals, and railway lines.