WHAT IS DEFORESTATION?


 

The intentional clearing of forested land is called deforestation. Throughout history and into current times, forests have been cleared in order to convert the forest land to farms, ranches, or urban uses. While deforestation has greatly changed the world's landscapes, the greatest concentration of deforestation today is taking place in tropical rainforests. Deforestation not only results in more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, but also threatens the world's biodiversity as these forests are usually home to many species of plants and animals.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines deforestation as the conversion of forest to other land uses (regardless of whether it is human-induced). "Deforestation" and "forest area net change" are not the same: the latter is the sum of all forest losses (deforestation) and all forest gains (forest expansion) in a given period. Net change, therefore, can be positive or negative, depending on whether gains exceed losses, or vice versa.

The removal of trees without sufficient reforestation has resulted in habitat damage, biodiversity loss, and aridity. Deforestation causes extinction, changes to climatic conditions, desertification, and displacement of populations, as observed by current conditions and in the past through the fossil record. Deforestation also reduces biosequestration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, increasing negative feedback cycles contributing to global warming. Global warming also puts increased pressure on communities who seek food security by clearing forests for agricultural use and reducing arable land more generally. Deforested regions typically incur significant other environmental effects such as adverse soil erosion and degradation into wasteland.

The resilience of human food systems and their capacity to adapt to future change is linked to biodiversity – including dryland-adapted shrub and tree species that help combat desertification, forest-dwelling insects, bats and bird species that pollinate crops, trees with extensive root systems in mountain ecosystems that prevent soil erosion, and mangrove species that provide resilience against flooding in coastal areas.] With climate change exacerbating the risks to food systems, the role of forests in capturing and storing carbon and mitigating climate change is important for the agricultural sector.

Credit : Wikipedia

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WHAT IS A WILDLIFE UNDERPASS?

Many of our busy national highways cut deep through forests. Animals that cross these roads may sometimes get run over by fast-moving vehicles. To avoid this, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has built nine dedicated underpasses for wildlife on the national highway NH47 that passes through the Kanha-Pench forest belt.

The cameras installed in the underpasses have revealed that a number of wild animals use them. The animals, including tigers, used the underpasses mostly at night to cross over to the other side of the forest. While some stayed back to take a nap or to have some fun with their playmates, a few others prowled the dark underpasses hoping for a good catch!

The concept was first developed in France in the 1950s. It took off in the Netherlands, where more than 600 crossings have been constructed to protect badgers, elk and other mammals. The Dutch built the world's longest animal crossing, the Natuurbrug Zanderij Crailoo, an overpass that spans more than 0.8 kilometers (0.5 miles). Wildlife crossings can also be found in Australia, Canada and other parts of the world. The idea took a little longer to catch on in the United States, but wildlife bridges and tunnels began appearing there in the 21st century.

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WHAT ARE SACRED GROVES?

The sacred grooves are the trees which are considered as socially, culturally, medicinally or religiously important. The common examples of sacred grooves are Ficus Religiosa (Peepal) tree and Ficus benghalensis (Banyan) tree. They are known as sacred groves because there are small shrines or temples inside them honouring local deities. They are pockets of forests where people are forbidden to cut the trees or disturb the animals for fear of angering the resident gods. They can only collect honey, twigs, medicinal herbs and litter.

Sacred groves are found in every state of India though they are known by different names. There are more than 20,000 sacred groves with the most - 5000-found in Himachal Pradesh. Some are small, occupying a few hectares, while others, like the Hariyali grove in Uttarakhand and the Deodar grove near Shimla, are spread over hundreds of hectares.

In Maharashtra they are called devarahi, in Karnataka, devarakaadu, in Rajasthan oran, in Himachal, devbhumi, in Kerala kaavu and kovil kaadu in Tamil Nadu.

The groves are extremely important because they are biodiversity hotspots. Not only do they contain hundreds of rare and valuable plants and trees, some of which are used in traditional medicines, but also different species of insects, birds and mammals. The trees help anchor the fertile topsoil and the litter provides valuable humus that local farmers cart away to replenish their fields. Ponds and streams run through these sacred groves helping to raise the water table.

Sacred groves have reduced in number and size over the years. In some groves, the trees have been cut to increase the space for religious activities - the shrines now attract too many pilgrims. Others have been taken over for cultivation. Unless local people become more involved in protecting and restoring them, sacred groves, and with them a treasure trove of ecosystems, will soon be gone forever.

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WHAT IS FOREST BATHING?

Forest bathing, better known as Shinrin Yoku in Japanese culture, is the practice of walking in the woods mindfully. In 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries created the term shinrin-yoku, which translates to “forest bathing” or “absorbing the forest atmosphere.” The practice encourages people to simply spend time in nature — no actual bathing required.

Anasuya Menon

Have you walked in a forest? Under the towering trees, with sunlight streaming down in thick long columns? Have you listened to the song of the birds or the sounds of a gurgling stream? Have you felt and probably smelt the fresh forest air? If you have done all of the above, you have forest bathed.

'Forest bathing' is nothing but. a mindful walk in the woods. The practice has its origins in Japanese culture, where it is called shinrin-yoku. The idea is to take in the forest through the senses. Being in the midst of nature refreshes the mind, energises and rejuvenates the body, says practitioners of forest bathing.

Re-connecting with nature

 The concept has caught on in India, especially in the past few years with nature groups organising forest-bathing tours to help people reconnect with nature. "Forest bathing is not activity-oriented. It is a contemplative process, where the participants are guided to take in the forest through their senses. As a guide, I only help participants experience the energy of the forest," says Dipika Sharma from Noida, who has been conducting forest bathing walks for groups in Delhi since 2019. "People are now increasingly aware of the therapeutic effect of nature especially after two years of being confined at home because of the pandemic," says Dipika, who founded Forest Therapy, an organisation that conducts forest bathing tours.

Introducing children to forest bathing would help them form a lasting bond with nature, says Verhaen Khanna, commercial pilot-turned environmental activist, who has been conducting forest bathing workshops for school and college students.

"When children are out in the wild, their instincts are most alive. It instills a sense of curiosity in them. While on these walks, children usually ask me a lot of questions about the sights, smells and sounds of the forest. At times, it might be about a strange insect they have seen or it could be about a sound they heard. They become very aware of their surroundings," says Verhaen. Being amid trees is also believed to boost immunity, says Verhaen, whose organisation, New Delhi Nature Society organises a variety of programmes for children starting from listening to birds to creating art, planting trees, mediation, tree climbing, yoga in the park and saving trees. "We have children as young as four years of age taking part. I have seen that children enjoy the time in the wilderness," says Verhaen. The most receptive are children in the four to seven age group. "They are very attentive. They are curious about snakes and spiders. We ensure their safety, of course," he adds.

The basic idea is to help children appreciate nature and understand how important it is to to be able to co-exist with nature. "We are also, in a way, helping them create memories. And the experience of a forest will stay with them for a long time," Verhaen says.

In addition to building a bond with nature, children also develop their personalities by learning how to interact with others in the group.

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WHICH IS THE ASIA'S LARGEST SAL FOREST?

Saranda Forest is Asia's largest Sal forest. Referred to as "the land of seven hundred hills", the 82,000-hectare forest is located in West Singhbhum district in Jharkhand. It is famous for its majestic Sal trees, the principal dominating tree species, and is home to wild elephants and the endangered flying lizard. The forest stands atop one of the world's largest single deposits of iron ore - over 2,000 million tonnes. Unchecked mining has destroyed  extensive swathes of Saranda, an estimated 14,410 have been lost to mining.

The magical sunrise and sunset of Kiriburu in the hills of Saranda is a spectacular sight. Saranda is often referred to as the land of seven hundred hills and is blessed with numerous waterfalls. This place is a delight for nature lovers and trekkers. Tourists can visit the twin cities of Kiriburu and Meghahatuburu, which are famous for their iron ore mines, governed by the Steel Authority of India Limited.

Some of the wild animals found here are Wild Elephants, Sambar, Chital, Beers, Bison, Tigers, and Leopards. Although the forest is stuffed with a huge number of Sal (Shorea robusta) trees, some of the other trees which are also found in large numbers are Mangoes, Jamun, Jackfruit, Guava, Mahua, Kusum, Tilai, Harin Hara (Armossa Rohitulea), Gular (Ficus Glomerata), and Asan. River Karo and Koina flow through the forest, contributing to a variety of flora and fauna. Due to the presence of a high amount of iron ore, the soil in the entire forest is red in color.

It is advisable to hire a guide while exploring the forest because there may be chances of getting lost as the forest is too dense and also there are a lot of wild animals. To explore some of the core parts of the forest, permission from the DFO (Divisional Forest Officer) is needed.

Credit :  Tripinfi

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