Trees have a rightful place in the economy of every country. Our forests are inexhaustible Â reserves for providing subsistence to our growing millions; for trees mean water, water means bread and bread means life.( Shri. K. M. Munshi, Union Agriculture Minister, India)
A tree is often the symbol used to represent the environmental movement. In fact, we adopted the color green, the plantâ€™s color, as the main adjective to define general environmentalism. Why is the forest such an important element for the environment? There are many reasons why we benefit from forests and there are obviously many consequences that stem from the loss of 13 million hectares of forest every year.
Forests stabilize the climate in general. The plants enrich the soil by recycling the nutrients through the shedding of leaves and seeds. They also regulate the water cycle by absorbing and redistributing rainwater quite equally to every species living within its range, which is known as the economy of water. Overall, forests provide perfect habitats for life to flourish on land. They actually contain most of the living species, particularly in the case of tropical forests where up to 90% of the planetâ€™s species live. Tropical forests possess the highest level of biodiversity and therefore provide the biggest genes reservoir.
Forests provide us with a huge amount of different medicinal material. Important amounts of the drugs we use are extracted from tropical plants and animals and the majority of drugs used to fight cancer are coming from there as well. Forests contain a potential source of an amazing amount of cures, but most of it hasnâ€™t been discovered yet. Human health is directly linked with the conservation of forests and all of their aspects.
A forest houses a large variety of organisms, and the species richness and complexity of the forest biomass are much higher than any other terrestrial system. (Briand and Cohen, 1987)
FOREST COVER IN HIMACHAL
Himachal has a diverse and rich flora as a result of the very varied physio-climate in its four agro-ecological zones. Differences in elevation lead to eco-zones with different vegetative cover, land use, and land capabilities. The vegetation of the state varies from tropical forests in the lower hills to alpine pastures in the high mountains. It has a rich and diversified flora because of the wide variety of soils, altitudes and climatic conditions.Â The altitudinal pattern of vegetation in Himachal Pradesh parallels latitudinal patterns of vegetation found globally.Â Hence the forest types seen in the higher altitudes of the state are more akin to those found in temperate latitudes. The forests of Himachal Pradesh are rich in vascular flora, which form the conspicuous vegetation cover. Out of a total of 45,000 species of plants found in the country as many as 3,295 species (7.32%) are reported in this state. More than 95% of the species are endemic to Himachal and characteristic of the Western Himalayan flora, while about 5% (150 species) are exotics introduced over the last 150 years. Among the rare plants is the living fossil tree Ginkgo biloba, a native of China, of which two plant species have been found in Manali and Kalpa.
FLORA OF HIMACHAL PRADESH
Type of flora :- Flowering Plants : 3,120 species, Conifers : 13 species, Pteriophytes : 124 species & Orchids : 38 species.
Forest types with dominant tree species occurring in Himachal Pradesh are :-
Trees :- Khair, Deodar, Fir Spruce, Maple, Ash, BhojPatra, Horse Chestnut, Alder, Robinia, poplar, Walnut. Siris, Kachnar, Semal, Tun, Mango, Kunish, Poplar, Willow, Ohi, robinia, Drek, Kail, Chil Toon, Behmi, Chulli, walnut, Khirik. Birch, Juniper, Cypress, Willow, Behul, Shisham, Ritha, Tut, Behera & Chil.
Shrubs :- Vitex, Munj, Saussurea lappa, Cotoneaster microphylla, Artemesi,Â Ber, Vitex, Berberis, Carrisa, Ipomea, Berberis, Dodonea, Bamboo.
Grasses :- Vetiver, Sanchrus, Lolium, Dactylis, Festuca, Dactylis, Bromus, Lucerne, white Clover, Red Clover, dioscorea, Phleum, Phylaris, Festuca arundinacea, Dectylis glomerata,Munjh.
ROLE OF FOREST COVER
There has been increasing realisation that forests provide numerous benefits to mankind including improvement of the quality of environment. Forests provide goods and services and maintain life support systems like timber, fuelwood, fodder, and a wide range of non-timber products. Further, forests are a source of natural habitat for biodiversity and repository of genetic wealth, provide means for recreation and opportunity for eco-tourism. In addition, forests help in watershed development, regulate water regime, conserve soil, and control floods. They contribute to process of carbon sequestration and act as carbon sink, which is important for reduction of green house gases and global warming. In ecologically sensitive areas like mountains, as well as river catchments, forests play an important role for prevention of floods, etc. Degradation of forest resources has a detrimental effect on soil, water and climate, which in turn affects human and animal life. This has created global concern for protection and preservation of forests.
|For the natural system||For the social system|
|– soil protection by absorption and deflection, radiation, precipitation and wind.
– conservation of humidity and carbon dioxide by decreasing wind velocity.
– sheltering and providing required conditions for plants and animal species.
|– sheltering agricultural crops against drought, wind, cold, radiation.
– conserving soil and water.
– shielding man against nuisances (noise, sights, smells, fumes).
|– absorption, storage and release of CO2, O2 and mineral elements
– absorption of aerosols and sound.
– absorption, storage and release of water.
– absorption and transformation of radiant and thermal energy.
|– improvement of atmospheric conditions in residential and recreational areas.
– improvement of temperature regimes in residential areas (roadside, trees, parks).
– improvement of biotype value and amenity of landscapes.
|– efficient storage of energy in utilizable form in phyto and zoo mass.
– self regulating and regenerative processes of wood bark, fruit and leaf production.
– production of a wide array of chemical compounds, such as resins, alkaloids, essential oils,
latex, pharmaceuticals etc.
|– supply of a wide array of raw
materials to meet manâ€™s growing demands.
– source of employment.
Source Verma, 2000.
It is important to recognize that the benefits of natural forests are rather different than man-made forests.Â The ecological benefits of natural forests are difficult to replicate in a man-made forest.Â Functions like carbon-sequestration, would depend on topography, soil conditions, density of forests, etc. The functions of forests both for the natural system as well as the social dimensions can be briefly seen in the following statement.Â It may be mentioned that while natural forests provide for all these functions, only some of these benefits may arise from man-made forests.( Verma, Madhu,2000)