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In the main, forests of the world may be divided into three major divisions
(a) Tropical Hardwood forest.
(i) Selva or wet equatorial forests
(ii) Monsoonal forests.
(b) Temperate Deciduous forests of hardwood Trees.
(c) Taiga or Coniferous forests of softwood trees.
Distribution of forest types. For the world as a whole just over half the forest area exploited today consists of coniferous species. The coniferous however are unevenly distributed more than half the stands being found in the U.S.S.R and less than one-tenth in the southern hemisphere. A cool temperate climate determines the natural occurrence of most coniferous species hence they are found in a broad belt encircling the earth below the treeless tundras of the far north. Broad-leaved trees are much more evenly distributed in Europe. Forests in North America and the U.S.S.R., they consist entirely of temperate hardwoods. Elsewhere, tropical hardwoods dominate the scene.
Composition of World Forests: Of the world's total forests, coniferous accounts for 33% and the rest 67% consist of broad-leaved forests. Hitherto broad-leaved species except temperate hardwoods have been used as fuel and charcoal. The conifers are demanded for timber fabrication and pulp and for serving the needs of transport and construction.
Tropical Hardwood Forests:
(i) Selva or wet equatorial forests. The forest is evergreen and is located within 5°N and 5°S on the two sides of the equator. The areas where such forests are found are Congo basin of Africa, Amazon basin of South America, Southeast Asian countries as Malaysia and Indonesia. The combination of, factors like heavy rainfall, extra sunshine and high temperature and high humidity promote the dense growth of vegetation in these areas. Broad-leaved evergreen trees or hardwood are common in the equatorial region. As there is heavy rainfall throughout the year the forest trails are full of mud. Consequently, i' is difficult to maintain communication lines. The rivers are the best means of transport through which timber is floated down. Though the forests of the tropical region contain valuable trees like mahogany, ebony, palm, rosewood, cedar, rubber, etc., the cutting is highly selective and only a few species are profitable. Only 10% of the world's total timber cut
comes from the tropical forests. Chief resources of the equatorial forests are not timber, but nuts, resins, ceiba, balata, rubber, palm oil, etc. Selva forests have been in a position to withstand the attack of man.
In the equatorial forests most of the trees retain their leaves for most of the time, so that the forests appear evergreen. In monsoon forests the trees are deciduous, shedding their leaves in the dry season and not growing new ones until the rains. The warm temperature of 19°C and the heavy rainfall of 200 cm or more in equatorial regions and of between 100 to 200 cm in the monsoon regions encourages prolific growth. Majority of the trees are broad-leaved and yield valuable hardwoods. Some tropical trees are noted for their extreme hardness, e.g. teak, greenwood are heavy and difficult to work. Some are so heavy that they will not even float.
The main commercial species are teak, greenheart, logwood, ebony, mahogany and ironwood. The tropical forests have several layers of vegetation. The highest layer is of the larger trees, which grow to a height of over 50 m and have huge buttress roots and long straight trunks, ideal for timber. Below these trees are layers of smaller trees about 10 to 12m high like palms, shrubs, herbs, and grasses. There is a wide variety of species in a given area and trees do not occur in stands or groups consisting of only one species as do the trees of coniferous forests.
Monsoon forests are less luxuriant than equatorial forests because of the seasonal drought but are characterized by thick undergrowth of plants and small trees and by dense thickets of bamboo. Coastal areas in the tropics are often fringed with swampy mangrove forests. The wood of man-groove species has many uses but the aerial roots of the trees make access difficult.