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Conservation of Forest and Wildlife, Practice Problems and FAQs

What comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘forest’? We generally associate forests with lots of tall trees and wild animals. Forests invoke a feeling of fear, mystery and adventure in us but did you know that our forests are in danger? Forests are of huge ecological, commercial, economic and aesthetic importance and are largely exploited in the name of urbanisation and development. Forests have a lot to offer to the planet but with the level of exploitation that mankind has hurled on the forests all over the world, the forest cover of Earth is rapidly dwindling. Thus, conservation of forests and their wildlife has become a necessity and that is what we are going to discuss in this article.

Table of Content:

Forests

According to The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) any land covering an area higher than 0.5 hectares that is dominated by trees that are 5 metre high or more and provide a canopy cover of minimum ten percent, can be called a forest. Lands used for the purpose of agriculture or urbanisation are excluded from this definition.

Forests are the home to around 3 million trees all over the world and account for 80% of the total plant biomass of Earth and 75% of the gross primary productivity in the biosphere. Thus, you can imagine how crucial forests are to the sustenance of life on Earth.

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Fig: Tropical forests

Importance of forests

Forests are of huge ecological, commercial, economic and aesthetic importance. Forests help to prevent soil erosion and store and collect groundwater. Forests are rich in biodiversity and are responsible for adding oxygen to the atmosphere, bringing about rainfall, providing food, paper, medicines, wood, etc. Tribal communities settled in and around forests earn a living by selling forest products.

Forest Conservation

Now that we know how important forests are to all forms of life on Earth, it is safe to say that one of our top priorities as human beings is to conserve and protect these forests. Human intervention has led to widespread deforestation and rapid decline in forest cover of the Earth which has had some severe consequences such as global warming, extinction of wildlife, soil erosion and desertification, low rainfall, climate changes, etc. Forest conservation ensures that forests are protected, restored and preserved such that forest products and services are yielded at a sustainable rate to the present generation and the future generations. It also helps in maintaining prolonged ecological balance in order to prevent soil erosion, climate changes and scarcity of water.

Two strategies are adopted to achieve forest conservation - Conservation forestry and commercial forestry.

Conservation or Protection Forestry

It involves recovery of degraded forests, protection of vulnerable and fragile forest ecosystems and regulating the activities which result in degradation of the forests. Some of the steps taken in this approach are -

  • Afforestation or growing forests over wastelands which are cultivable but had no forests before due to lack of trees, seeds, or other factors.

Fig: Afforestation

  • Reforestation or the act of regrowing forests in areas which were destroyed by shifting cultivation, overgrazing, forest fires, excessive felling of trees, etc.

Fig: Reforestation

  • Improvement cutting damaged, old, dry, crooked and non-commercial plants and selective cutting of less vigorous and weak plants.
  • Certain forest tracts are protected from human interference and exploitation by setting them aside as national parks and sanctuaries.
  • Declaring watershed areas, slopes and other ecologically fragile areas as reserve forests. Grazing and felling of trees should not be allowed in such forests.
  • Banning scraping and litter collection because these activities interfere with the maintenance of soil structure and water percolation.
  • Replacing wood and timber with alternate sources of fuel such as biogas and solar energy for cooking and warming.

Fig: Biogas plant

  • Allowing selective grazing only in certain areas and specifying the number of animals allowed to graze in that area. Grazing should not be allowed on slopes and during the growth of seedlings.

Commercial or Production Forestry

It involves raising useful trees and shrubs on selected paths or tracts in order to meet the commercial needs without having to exploit natural forests. This approach involves three strategies -

  • Social forestry which involves planting fast-growing and multipurpose plants on common village lands, railway embankments, roadsides and other empty lands in cooperation with the local inhabitants.
  • Urban forestry which involves planting fruit, flower and shade-bearing trees on vacant lands in the urban areas.
  • Agroforestry which involves using the same land for farming and forestry. Woody perennials are simultaneously raised on the same land with annual agricultural crops.

Forest Management

To obtain maximum advantage from forests, without degrading them, a skillful planning and controlled commercial exploitation of forests is carried out. This is known as forest management. It involves the following techniques -

  • The forest is divided into blocks for tree cutting, depending on how long the common trees take to mature. One block per year is cleared and reforested immediately.
  • Quick growing, high yielding and pest and pathogen resistant varieties of forest plants are developed through advanced silviculture.
  • Biological control of weeds and pests is practised.

Fig: Ladybirds can be used for biological control of aphids

  • Fire fighting equipment is provided in forested areas to prevent forest fires.

Forest Acts

Forest Act, 1927 (Amended 1930, 1933 and 1948)

This Act was aimed at protecting fragile forest ecosystems and controlling excessive exploitation of forests. The basic objectives were -

  • To create and manage reserved forests, protected forests and village forests.
  • To control the movement of forest produce.
  • To control cattle grazing.

Forest (conservation) Act, 1980

This Act was enacted on 25 October 1980 and amended in 1988. This act focussed on preventing the use of forests for non forest purposes and conversion of reserved forests to non-reserved forests. It also has provisions for protection and restoration of slopes and catchment areas.

National Forest Policy, 1988

The Forest (conservation) Act, 1980 was amended to frame the National Forest Policy in 1988 to incorporate stricter penal provisions against violators.

Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife includes all living organisms that live or grow wild and undomesticated in an area, without being introduced by humans. Wildlife holds huge significance in our environment as they enhance the biodiversity of the region and help in maintaining ecological balance by interaction between different forms of wildlife. Commercial products such as medicines, honey, fossil fuels, etc can also be obtained from wild plants and animals. The microbes that form a part of wildlife help in decomposition, nitrogen fixation and enhancement of the soil fertility.

The different approaches that can be taken for conservation of wildlife are prevention of deforestation, development of protected areas such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, etc., ex situ conservation of wildlife in botanical gardens, zoological parks, gene banks, etc and banning wildlife hunting and poaching.

Practice Problems

1. Which of the following is not an example of a protected area?

  1. National Park
  2. Wildlife sanctuary
  3. Biosphere Reserve
  4. Zoological garden

Solution: As one of the strategies to conserve forests and their wildlife, forested areas are often protected by declaring them as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries or biosphere reserves. These protected areas allow minimum human intervention and hence help in conservation of organisms in their natural habitat (in situ). Zoological parks are establishments set up for ex situ conservation of wildlife outside their natural habitat. Thus, correct option is d.

2. Improvement cutting is -

  1. cutting of damaged, old, dry, crooked and non-commercial plants
  2. cutting of less vigorous and weak plants
  3. cutting trees with improved techniques
  4. both a and b

Solution: Cutting of damaged, old, dry, crooked and non-commercial plants is called improvement cutting and cutting of less vigorous and weak plants is called selective cutting. Thus, the correct option is a.

3. ‘Planting fast-growing and multipurpose plants on common village lands, railway embankments, roadsides and other empty lands’. Which of the following terms is explained by the given statement?

  1. Urban forestry
  2. Agroforestry
  3. Social forestry
  4. Both a and c

Solution: Social forestry involves planting fast-growing and multipurpose plants on common village lands, railway embankments, roadsides and other empty lands in cooperation with the local inhabitants. Thus, the correct option is c.

4. When was the Forest (Conservation) Act amended?

  1. 1980
  2. 1933
  3. 1945
  4. 1988

Solution: The Forest (Conservation) Act was enacted on 25 October 1980 and amended in 1988. This act focussed on preventing the use of forests for non forest purposes and conversion of reserved forests to non-reserved forests. It also has provisions for protection and restoration of slopes and catchment areas. Thus, the correct answer is option d.

FAQs

  1. Which is the largest national park in India?

Answer: The Hemis National Park, located in the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir is the largest national park in India with an area of around 4400 km2.

2.What is Joint Forest Management?

Answer: The Joint Forest Management programme was introduced by the Government in the 1980s. It involves the local communities in the management and protection of forests , for which they receive the benefit of using forest products like gum, fruits, medicine, rubber, etc.

3. Which is the largest rainforest in the world?

Answer: The Amazon rainforest in South America is the largest rainforest in the world. Just over a third of tree cover in the tropics comes from the Amazon rainforest whose tree cover sprawled over a vast area of 628 million hectares in 2020.

4. What is the Taungya system of agroforestry?

Answer: It is a method of shifting cultivation in which crops are grown in between rows of planted forest trees such as Sal and Teak. As the trees mature, the place is abandoned and a new land is chosen for raising forest and agricultural crops.

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