Ten countries or areas had no forest at all and an additional 54 had forest on less than 10 percent of their total land area in the year 2010. Forest resources are important in sustaining local livelihoods, but are often underestimated in value and under-protected in laws and policies.
Local forest resources make key contributions to sustaining traditional knowledge practices, developing Community-based Forest management (CBFM) and Small & Micro forest enterprises (SMFEs), supplying non wood forest products (NWFPs) and making ‘noncash’ contributions to subsistence livelihoods. The area coverage and change has been shown in the Table 12.2.
There are four different types of forests found around the world: tropical forests, temperate forests and boreal forests.
1. Tropical Forests:
Tropical forests are found between the line of cancer and the line of Capricorn that is both 23.5 degree north and south of equator. Tropical forests can be divided into Evergreen forests and deciduous forests. Tropical Evergreen forests or rain forests have super hot temperatures all year long and get up to 80 inches (2000 mm) of rain a year and relative humidity is uniformly high. Tropical rainforests are located near the equator.
Fifty seven percent of all tropical rainforests are found in Amazon Basin of Latin America. One third of the world’s tropical rainforests are in Brazil. Other tropical rainforests are located in Southeast Asia (Southeast Coast of India, Sri Lanka, the Malaysian Peninsula, the Indonesian Archipelago, Borneo, Sarawak, and Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands (25% of the world’s tropical rainforests) and West Africa (18%).
They are vital storehouses of biodiversity on the planet. Amazon forests alone have 2,500 tree species. Tropical rain forests are under constant assault for various reasons, such as, agriculture, logging, resettlement of migrants, industrial fuel, hydroelectric development, etc. Tropical rain forests also lead to greater concentration outside the forest area. In Peru, 60% of the land area, covered with such forests, has only 10% of Peru’s population.
So is the case of Brazil’s Amazon Basin, which is rightly called as the world’s greatest “deserts” (because of a very low density of population – one person per square mile). The low settlement is because of heavy vegetation, harsh tropical climate and generally the poor quality of soil.
The other kind of tropical forests are known as tropical deciduous forests. These are spread over monsoonal forests of Southern and Southeastern Asia. In South America and Africa, on the borders of evergreen forests too deciduous forests are found. These forests, also known as Sub-tropical forests, are found to the south and north of the tropical forests. The trees here are adapted to resist the summer drought.
2. Temperate Forests:
Temperate forests can be divided into deciduous, coniferous forests, mixed, and Broad-leaved Evergreen. Deciduous forests are found on the Southern side of Boreal forests, i.e., Eastern United States, Canada, Europe, China and Japan. These forests are found mostly between 30 degree to 50 degree North Latitude which includes the Eastern United States, Europe, Western Turkey, Eastern Iran, Western China, and Japan.
A few of such forests are also found in South America, Southern Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The frost-free season remains in vogue for 4 to 8 months. Temperate deciduous forests have to bear warm summers and cold winters (temperature dipping to -30 degree Celsius).
Maples, beeches, hickories, and oaks are the most popular trees. Temperate forests, which are also known as deciduous forests, have four distinct seasons, which means all the tree leaves fall off in the winter months. Tons of animals live in temperate forests like beavers, black and brown bears, deer, foxes, raccoons, skunks, rabbits and various bird species.
Temperate coniferous forests are spread in the montane forests (also known as cloud forests because they receive most of their precipitation from the mist or fog that comes up from the lowlands).
Some of these montane woodlands and grasslands are found in high-elevation tropical, subtropical and temperate zones of North America, Europe, and China…These are also available on smaller areas of montane regions of Korea, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Major trees include abies, pinus, pseudotsuga, and Thuja.
3. Boreal Forests:
Boreal forests often get less rain than the other forests and are home to evergreen trees, which stay green all year long. This is because they have needles, which don’t need as much water as regular tree leaves. Boreal forests are only in the Northern Hemisphere and can be found in the high latitudes of North America and Eurasia where they are found from Scandinavia to eastern Siberia.
There is extreme cold. Soil remains beneath the surface and the frost-free season remains in vogue for 50-100 days. Roughly 20% of the world’s forest area comprises of this type of forests. The trees available are spruces, firs, and larches. Relatively small trees not exceeding 30 m in height create densely shaded forest floor. Frequent fire occurs.
4. Plantation Forests:
There are around 140 million hectares of “plantation forests” in the world, accounting for around 7% of global forest cover. The productivity of planted forests, in terms of supplying a sustainable volume of timber and fibre, is usually greater than natural forests. Plantations produce around 40% of industrial wood. Both the plantation area and contribution to world wood production are projected to continue to increase in the foreseeable future.