After the Bombay High Court dismissed petitions opposing the felling of trees in Aarey Colony located in north Mumbai for the construction of a metro shed, activists have alleged that authorities started hacking trees before the 15-day waiting period.
A forest is a large area dominated by trees. There is no universally recognised or precise definition, with more than 800 definitions of forests used around the world. Although a forest is usually defined by the presence of trees, under many definitions, “an area completely lacking trees may still be considered a forest if it grew trees in the past, will grow trees in the future, or was legally designated as a forest regardless of vegetation type.”
Forests cover a third of the world’s land. According to the World Bank’s World Development Indicator 2016 “At the beginning of the 20th century, the Earth’s forest area was about 50 million square kilometers. According to the World Bank’s World Development Indicator 2016, since 1990, the world has lost 1.3 million square kilometers of forests, an area larger than South Africa.”
According to a study published in the research journal ‘Nature’ dated September 2015, there are about 3 trillion trees on Earth, which amounts to about 400 trees per person. “Of these trees, approximately 1.30 trillion exist in tropical and subtropical forests, with 0.74 trillion in boreal regions and 0.66 trillion in temperate regions.” It is estimated that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization. Tropical regions have been seeing the fastest loss of forests.
World Bank’s report titled ‘Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience’, concluded that “The world would warm by 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century if we did not take concerted action now”.
According to a study by Michigan University’s ‘Global Change Curriculum’, it is only after more than 100 years that forests become as they were before they were cut.
According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), current extinction rates are about 1,000 times higher than before humans came along, and future rates are likely to about 10,000 times higher.
The UN General Assembly has declared 2011-2020 as the UN Decade on Biodiversity. The United Nations proclaimed May 22 the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.
According to Ecologist Fredrick Clements, who worked on the concept of predictable change in vegetation time, ecological succession is a process involving several phases:
A forest consists of many components that can be broadly divided into two categories: biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) components. The living parts include trees, shrubs, vines, grasses and other herbaceous (non-woody) plants, mosses, algae, fungi, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and microorganisms living on the plants and animals and in the soil. Forests are often home to many animal and plant species. Research shows how forests account for 75% of the gross primary productivity of the Earth’s biosphere and contain 80% of the Earth’s plant biomass. Net primary production is estimated at 21.9 gigatonnes carbon per year for tropical forests, 8.1 for temperate forests, and 2.6 for boreal forests.
Scientists have recorded how the first known forests on Earth arose in the Late Devonian (approximately 380 million years ago), with the evolution of Archaeopteris. Archaeopteris quickly spread throughout the world, from the equator to subpolar latitudes. Archaeopteris formed the first forest by being the first known species to cast shade due to its fronds and forming soil from its roots.
The greenhouse effect resulting in an increase in temperature is likely to bring profound allogenic changes. Allogenic succession is caused by external environmental influences and not by the vegetation. Climate change often occurs at a rate and frequency sufficient to prevent arrival at a climax state.
Forests provide a diversity of ecosystem services including:
According to the special report on Global Warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October 2018, to avoid temperature rise by more than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, there will need to be an increase in global forest cover equal to the land area of Canada (10 million km2), by the year 2050.
So, when a forest is destroyed, like in Aarey, then an ecosystem will die. Let’s come and raise our voice to save forests.