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Associations of plants, predominantly trees, are known as forests. The forest is one of the major forms of natural landscape. The growth of forest depends on a number of factors like soil, temperature, rainfall, altitude, contour, distance from sea, thickness of humus, sunshine and light, wind and aspect of slope.
The biosphere has provided man with various resources in the form of flora and fauna on the surface of the earth. Unlike other resources all the biotic resources are being utilized by mankind for a long time and are renewable.
Originally, forest covered probably 25% of the earth, but owing to overuse and misuse, there is only 15 per cent of the earth's surface with forest cover. Wood, has however, always been used, wherever it was available as a fuel for domestic and industrial purposes. Wood is also a vital material in the building and construction industry and in furniture making. Wood is the raw material for the enormous pulp and paper industry and is used in commerce and packing. Wood is also important for the modern textile industry.
Sir John Boyd Orr estimated that over 40% of the lands of the earth, exclusive of the polar regions-or about 23 million square miles were originally covered by forests. About 15.4 million square miles of forest are now left, the rest 7.6 million square miles or about 33 1,3% of the original forest coverings have been recklessly destroyed by man-so destructive has man been in his use of forests. Only about 2/3rd of the accessible forest of 1814 million hectare or 30% of all forests are in use today.
Importance: The importance of forests on the economy of a country can hardly be exaggerated. A human economy without plants is quite unthinkable. The economic activities of man are greatly influenced by forests. Besides, forests indirectly affect climate, stream flow, soil conditions, especially in the areas of drainage basins, and thus influence agriculture, grazing, recreation and wild-life.
Forests cause rainfall by capturing moisture in the air. Forests prevent soil erosion. Leaves of trees fall on the ground become decomposed and add nitrogen to the soil. Thus forests increase fertility of land. Flood is controlled by forests. Thus by causing rainfall, by preventing soil erosion, by increasing soil fertility and by controlling flood, forests indirectly influence agriculture. Forests provide shelter to wild animals. Human existence is facilitated by forests as they provide oxygen to man and absorb carbon dioxide released by man.
Next: Gathering in Tropical Forests