Forests: Our Lifeline
Forests serve as green lungs and water purifying systems in nature. They provide a home for many animals and plants. E.g., boar, bison, jackals, porcupine, elephants live in the deeper areas of the forest. They are the lifeline for the forest-dwelling communities.
Forests play an important role in maintaining the atmosphere and in other different fields. They provide oxygen to the atmosphere, help in bringing good rainfall in neighboring areas. Climate, water cycle and air quality are influenced by the forests. They protect soil from erosion and provide habitat to a large number of animals. They serve as a source of medicinal plants, timber and many other useful products. Forests also act as a natural absorber of rainwater and allow it to seep.
Rain is the water falling in drops from the vapor that gets condensed in the atmosphere.
The raindrops do not hit the forest floor directly. The uppermost layer of the forest canopy intercepts the flow of raindrops and most of the water comes down through the branches and stem of the trees. Forests help in maintaining the water table, control the floods and also help in maintaining the flow of water in the streams to maintain a steady supply of water.
Forests consist of different varieties of vegetation. In forests, a wide variety of trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses are present. E.g., Sal, Teak, Semal, Sheesham, Neem, Palash, Fig, Khair, Amla, Bamboo, Kachnar. These are collectively known as plantation.
As forests are rich in plant varieties we get many products from forests. E.g., plywood, furniture, matchsticks, paper, etc. The wood is also used as fuel. Gum, oils, spices, fodder for animals and medicinal plants are also products of the forests.
Many food chains can be found in the forest, which are linked to each other. If any food chain is disturbed, it affects other food chains also. Herbivores are animals which feed on plants and themselves get eaten by other carnivore animals. E.g., in a grazing food chain, grass is eaten by goat, which in turn, is eaten by the humans. This shows that each one depend on others. If one of these is disturbed it will affect the others also.
Dead plants and animals act as food for some organisms like tiny insects, millipedes, ants, etc. These are broken down by microbes and fungi into simpler organic forms. This is called decomposition. Decomposers are the microorganisms which convert the dead plants and animals to humus. They also include some fungi. They are also known as detritivores. These micro-organisms play an important role in the forest.
Some organisms feed upon the dead plant and animal tissues and convert them into a dark coloured substance. This substance is called humus. It is very rich in nutrients and is an excellent fertilizer. The presence of humus ensures that the nutrients of the dead plants and animals are released into the soil. These nutrients are absorbed by the living plants which show the cycling of nutrients. The dead animals provide food for vultures, crows, jackals and insects, etc.