March 21 is celebrated as the World Forest Day to create awareness about forests and their importance in our lives. The theme this year is ‘Forests and Energy’.

Covering one-third of Earth’s landmass, forests perform vital tasks across the globe.

From providing green cover to being the biosphere reserves, forests have a lot of importance with over 1.6 billion people, including over 2,000 native cultures directly depending upon the forests. The forests provide livelihoods, shelter, fuel, food and hence are an important part of our ecosystem. However, despite all of these benefits, deforestation has been a growing concern over the years. To help create awareness about this, and to engage more people around the world in environment-friendly practices, the March 21 is celebrated as the World Forest Day.

United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on December 21, 2012, to declare March 21 as the international forest day.

With the resolution, United Nations hopes to encourage its member states to actively participate in events related to forests and promotion of the various benefits of them. Activities like tree planting have also been made part of the event. The aim is also to raise awareness amongst people over the role of forests in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability, and for food security.

Forests provide shelter to over 80 per cent of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects and hence with the widespread destruction that is happening at the rate of 13 million hectares per year, these species have been having a hard time adapting. This has further led to a loss of some species from their natural environment and from the habitat thus leading to fears of extinction.

Theme

‘Forests and energy’ have been decided as the theme for this year’s international forest day. The reason behind this theme is to showcase the importance of wood energy in improving people’s lives, mitigating climate change, and in empowering sustainable development.

Wood is a source of renewable energy used all over the country and the world extensively for a long list of resources. Not only is it used for energy generation but also for creating furniture, for paper, construction or other items of daily use and the list is endless.

Wood energy helps deal with climate change and works in tandem with sustainable development, showcasing the further need for the forests. Forests are known to hold energy content around ten times of the annual energy consumption of the world!

India has a lot of different type of forests in different parts of the country. The total forest and tree cover in India is 79.42 million hectare, approximately 24.16 per cent of India’s geographical area (India State of Forest Report 2015, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India).

The few main categories of forests in India are:

  • Tropical Forests
  1. Found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Western Ghats, the coastline of peninsular India, and Assam.
  2. Tropical forests are known to be biodiversity hotspots where a lot of flora and fauna are found.
  3. Trees like jackfruit, betel nut palm, jamun, mango, hollock, sal, teak, whistling pines, mangrove dates, spurge, caper etc are found commonly in various types of tropical forests.
  • Alpine Forests
  1. Found in the Himalayas at altitudes ranging from 2,900 to 3,800 m above sea level in regions that undergo heavy rainfall.
  2. Alpine forests contain trees like Fir, kail, spruce, rhododendron, plum, yew, Juniper, honeysuckle, artemisia, potentilla, etc.
  • Subtropical Montane Forests
  1. Found in the eastern, western Himalayas, western ghats and Shivalik hills at varying altitudes of 1000-2000 m above sea level.
  2. Subtropical Montane Forests have trees like Evergreen oaks, chestnuts, sals, pines, chir, olive, acacia modesta and pistacia, etc are the trees found in these forests.
  • Temperate Montane Forests
  1. Found in the Himalayas in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nilgiri hills in Kerala between 1500 and 3300 metres where the annual rainfall varies from 150 cm to 300 cm.
  2. Deodar, Chilauni, Indian chestnut, birch, plum, machilus, Cinnamomum, litsea, magnolia, blue pine, oak, hemlock, pines, cedars, silver firs, spruce, etc., chilgoza, etc are some of the important trees found here.
  • Sub-Alpine Forests
  1. They are found in the Himalayas extending from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh at a height of 2900-3500 m.
  2. The trees that are found here commonly are juniper, rhododendron, willow, black currant, red fir, black juniper, birch, larch etc.

International forest day marks the importance of forests in our lives. One of the major sources of oxygen, Forests’ have a greater role to play in the Earth’s ecosystem. And hence need to be conserved with proper mandates on protection of forests!


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