A very large area full of trees making the area dense is called a forest. A forest is an important habitat for life on earth, it's an ecosystem which is composed of plants, animals and microorganisms.
Forest as Habitat
Forest is the habitat for a variety of living beings. Many plants, animals and microbes live in the forest.
A forest has two distinct layers, overstory (or canopy) and understory. A tree can be divided into two parts: trunk and branches. The branches of a tree make its crown. In dense forests, the canopy looks like the roof of the forest because crowns of several trees form the canopy. Some animals and creatures live only on the canopy, e.g. birds.
The lower layer of the forest is called the understory. It is composed of herbs and shrubs. The understory may be dark and dense with low penetration of sunlight. There are many animals and creatures which live only in the understory of a forest.
Important forest produce:
Forests produce many things that are very useful for us. Some examples are:
- Firewood and dry leaves are used as kitchen fuel in villages which are close to a forest.
- Timber is used for making furniture and artifacts. It is also an important raw material for construction activities .
- Wood pulp is used in manufacturing paper.
- Honey, medicinal leaves, herbs, spices, raisin, etc. are important forest produce.
Forest as a system:
Forest is a self-sustaining system. Every part of the forest contributes towards its sustenance. The green plants prepare food through photosynthesis. The herbivores directly take food from the green plants. The carnivores take food from the herbivores. This makes a food chain, which can be shown by the following example:
Lion Eats -> Deer -> Deer feeds on Grass -> Grass
When an animal or a plant dies, its dead remains rot in due course of time and turn back into a soil like looking thing, which eventually mixes with the soil. The process is called decomposition and microorganisms carry out this process. Decomposition is the process by which all the raw materials are returned to nature. The soil-like thing made after decomposition is called humus. It makes the soil highly fertile. The topsoil of the forest is fertile because of the presence of humus.
Role of forest in preserving the environment:
Forest plays an important role in preserving the environment. Green plants take solar energy and convert it into chemical energy while making food. Solar energy is transferred to other living beings through green plants. Green plants utilize carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and release oxygen. So, green plants maintain the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the environment.
Role of forest in water cycle:
The roots of the trees make the soil porous. Rainwater seeps through these pores and recharge groundwater. Forests prevent wastage of rainwater in the form of runoff. Forests also prevent flash floods by slowing down the movement of water.
Role of forest in soil conservation:
The roots of the trees hold the topsoil in place. This prevents soil erosion by wind or by running water.
Deforestation and its effect:
Large scale cutting of trees to clear land for human use is called deforestation. As the human population is growing, vast tracts of forests have been removed which is also creating many problems like:
- Reduced forest cover has led to soil erosion and loss of soil fertility at many places.
- Reduced forest cover has disturbed the natural process of recharging of groundwater. This has resulted in shortage of drinking water at many places.
- Reduced forest cover means there is loss of habitat for many animals. Existence of most of the animals is in danger because of this.
- Reduced forest cover means there is higher percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is leading to global warming. The average temperature of the earth is on the rise.