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Forests

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Forests - Lesson Summary

The plants and trees that grow naturally in a place are called its natural vegetation. The natural vegetation of places differs on the basis of height, its climatic conditions, the slope of land and the thickness of the soil. There are two climatic factors which affect the growth of vegetation largely i.e. temperature and rainfall.

The natural vegetation of the world is classified into four types i.e. Forests, Grasslands, Deserts and Tundra.

Forests are large areas of land covered by trees, plants and underbrush growing in places which receive plenty of rain. The thickness and vegetation of forests changes and forests are further classified in four types i.e. Tropical, Temperate, Mediterranean and Coniferous.

Tropical rainforests lie in the "tropics," between the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer and near the equator. Rainforests receive heavy rainfall throughout the year; the trees here do not shed their leaves completely and appear green throughout the year. Hence, tropical rainforests are also called evergreen forests.

The climate of rainforests is hot and humid. The trees in rainforests form a thick canopy of several layers which is the reason sunlight does not enter the forest even during the day. Hardwood trees like rosewood, ebony and mahogany are commonly found here in addition to bamboos and reeds.

Nearly all types of animals, including microscopic animals, insects and worms, fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals, are found in the rainforests. The anaconda is one of the world’s largest snakes, can also be found in the tropical rainforest.

The tropical rainforests in India grow on the western slopes of the Western Ghats and the north-eastern regions of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland, the Terai areas of the Himalayas and the Andaman group of islands.

Tropical deciduous forests or the monsoon forests are those which are green only during the rainy season and shed the leaves in the dry season for conserving water. These forests are not as thick as the rainforests and are found in large parts of India, northern Australia and Central America.

These forests do not receive rain throughout the year and experience seasonal changes. Some examples of trees in Tropical deciduous forests are teak, sal, sandalwood, mahua, khair, wattle, bamboo, semal, sisasm and myrobalan. These trees are used in furniture and construction.

The common animals found here are snails, spiders, snakes, frogs, salamanders, turtles, woodpeckers, hawks, owls, chipmunks, rabbits, weasels, foxes and bears. The soil of monsoon forests is most fertile as it is enriched with dry leaves and dead organisms. As a result, these forests are now being converted into farming lands.

Temperate evergreen forests grow between the mid-latitudinal coastal regions and experience a moderate climate. The rainfall in these forests is intense in the winters while the summers are mild and relatively dry. These are commonly found along the eastern boundaries of the continents like south-east USA, south China and south-east Brazil.

The trees in these forests have broad, flat and leathery leaves which are waxy, to prevent from losing too much water when the air is dry. One can find both hard and soft wood trees like oak, pine, fir and eucalyptus here. The timber from hardwood trees is used for making furniture while the eucalyptus tree gives us eucalyptus oil.

The forests become cool and wet near the middle latitudes around the globe and are called temperate deciduous forests. These are found in the north eastern part of USA, China, New Zealand, Chile and the coastal regions of Western Europe. The trees shed their leaves in autumn and grow again in spring.

Huge trees like oak, ash, maple, beech, chestnut, hickory, elm, basswood and linden, are found here. Most of the food items like walnuts, apples, mushrooms and maple sugar, come from temperate forests. These forests are home for animals like bears, deer, foxes, wolves and weasels and birds like pheasants, monals, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks and turkeys.

The cold woodlands found in the upper areas of North America and Asia, are called as coniferous forests or Taiga or boreal forests. The taiga forests cover about 15% of the earth’s land surface and are the largest land habitat on the earth.

These forests experience long and severe winters and the temperature remains below freezing point for almost 6 months. Tall, cone-bearing softwood evergreen trees like Chir, pine, cedar, needle leaf, coniferous or gymnosperm, fir and spruce are found in these forests. The wood of the coniferous trees is very useful for making pulp, used for manufacturing paper and newsprint. Matchboxes and packing boxes are also made from softwood.

Mosses found here are used as medicines as they possess antibacterial properties and by florists for decoration. The silver fox, mink and polar bear are the common animals here.

Mediterranean forests or Chapparal are mostly found in areas around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, Africa and Asia. They are also found outside the actual Mediterranean region in California in the USA, south west Africa and south western parts of South America and South west Australia.

These regions experience hot dry summers and mild rainy winters. Citrus fruits like figs, olives, oranges and grapes grow well in these regions and hence these are known as the Orchards of the World. Wildlife is not much here but animals like the wild goat, sheep, lynx, wild boar, rabbit and vulture can be found.

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