This post was inspired by an inaugural lecture that I attended in school, months ago.
Forest is a word coined from the term Forestry. Forestry is the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, and conserving forests and other resources concerned, to meet a variety of goals and for the benefit of humans and the world at large.
Forestry is a broad term that covers the management of forest land, guided by the principles of sustainability.
The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines a forest as a large area of land that is thickly covered with trees. This definition doesn't quite cut it, as it did not cover the animals (fauna resources) and the environmental resources with which they interact. It goes a longer way than just trees.
A simple and more in-depth definition of a forest is an area of land covering more than 0.5 hectares with not less than 200 trees, comprising of other living and non-living components making up the natural environment.
Forests cover approximately 9% of the Earth's surface (with about 31 percent of the total land area in the world). The Forests serve as a source of livelihood to more than one-third of the Earth's population.
In today's world, forest estates are under serious threats due to the destructive activities of man, hindering growth and development.
It is quite unfortunate, because people are still misguided, with the impression that the forest estate exists as a land bank for other 'more important' sectors.
Forests are being destroyed, therefore it has become important to put in measures to stop or reduce deforestation, as it causes serious damage to the environment.
Deforestation is the deliberate, natural or accidental clearing, destroying or removal of trees or tree stands from a forest estate, by humans.
Loss of trees or tree stands can lead to desertification, soil erosion, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and a host of other problems.
Deforestation is carried out for several reasons, to mention a few- agricultural expansion, timber harvesting, extensive cattle reaching, mining and urbanization. Deforestation can also be attributed to natural disasters like wildfires, tornadoes and cyclones.
A case study is the Amazon Rainforest of Brazil (well, the majority of the forest is contained within Brazil). Studies show that at current rates of deforestation, 27% of the Amazon will be without trees by 2030. The fires that raged across the Amazon in August helped bring to light something the world has to address. If things continue as they are at present, there will be dire consequences to face for all life on Earth.
Deforestation alters not only the forest and its surrounding environment but also the atmosphere globally, causing devastating effects. Carbon is released into the atmosphere when trees are cut down because the absence of trees makes it impossible for the forest to sequester carbon. Deforested areas lose that ability and release even more carbon.
Carbon sequestration is the capturing of carbon dioxide by trees to prevent it from entering the Earth's atmosphere. This is done to prevent the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which can in turn trap heat and contribute to climate change.
The depletion of forests causes leaching. When the forests are cleared, rainfall intensity is much harder than it should be, therefore causing the topsoil to be removed through soil erosion. The nutrients leached from the soil makes it unable to be used for agricultural practices, leading to the clearing of more forest.
An indirect consequence of deforestation is the spread of diseases. Diseases like malaria and sleeping sickness, that are transmitted through insects are more likely to be spread in open spaces with more sunlight exposure.
These diseases are not only restricted to animals, but also humans that are exposed to these insects, either in the wild or in nearby urban settlements.
Forests can absorb more sunlight than plain areas of land. Trees trap sunlight through a process known as photosynthesis.
Sunlight that is not absorbed (because of the absence of trees) is bounced back into the atmosphere, causing alteration in air currents and changing local temperatures. This is the reason we complain of excessive heat.
Also, the environment becomes dryer when trees are cut. This is because the process of evapotranspiration has been hindered. Trees aid evapotranspiration, being that they absorb water through their roots directly from the soil, transport the water through its tissues and release it in form of vapour through the leaves. This is what gives the feeling of warmth and moisture in the atmosphere.
The forests serve as a source of windbreak, due to their large and thick make-up. The clearing up of the forests hinders its ability to act as a holding for strong wind, causing higher wind speed and reduced warmth.
Conservation of the Forests
The need to protect and develop the forests cannot be over-emphasized. The primary goal of conservation is to preserve and protect the forest.
Forests being referred to as the lungs of the Earth should be conserved or preserved. While it is almost impossible to avoid deforestation, as timber is inevitably required for the running of certain day-to-day activities, but deforestation can be controlled through sustainable harvesting.
Sustainable harvesting is the responsible harvesting or felling of trees for timber, providing a constant supply of wood resources and ensuring that the future potential timber yields are left without ecological damage.
There are certain sustainable methods to carry out harvesting. One of which is Selective cutting. Selective cutting is the cutting down of selected trees to improve the growth and development of other trees in the area.
Trees that should be considered for selective harvesting are trees with poor appearance and stunted growth. Generally, it should be trees in a stand that are not doing so well.
These trees can be cut annually for the supply of fuelwood. This solves two problems at a time- the demand for fuelwood and less competition for space and sunlight amongst the remaining trees, hence ensuring future timber yields.
Another sustainable harvesting method is Clear cutting. Clear cutting, as the name implies, is the cutting down of all trees in a stand or area at once. While this method is arguably controversial, clear cutting is a beneficial method as it is most efficient for both harvesting and replanting trees. It is also a cost-effective method.
In tree conservation, afforestation should be practised to increase the number of trees in a forest. Afforestation is the planting of trees in areas that do not have trees, to create a forest. This will help to repair the damage caused by deforestation.
Planting trees will help to stabilize the climate, prevent soil erosion, reverse global warming and enhance the quality of the air we breathe.
Please plant a tree today.
Thanks for your time, till next time ❤️