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Forests and Wildlife

The forest is a complex ecosystem consisting mainly of trees that have formed a buffer for the earth to protect life forms. The trees which make up the main area of the forest create a special environment, which, in turn, affects the kinds of animals and plants that can exist in the forest.
The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) has defined forest as land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% and area of more than 0.5 hectare. The trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 m at maturity. In the tropical and subtropical region, forests are further subdivided into plantations and natural forests. Natural forests are forests composed of indigenous trees, not deliberately planted. Plantations are defined as forest stands established by planting or/and seeding in the process of afforestation or reforestation. There are about 16 major types of forests in India from the tropical type to the dry type.
Forests can develop wherever there is an average temperature greater than about 10° C in the warmest month and an annual rainfall in excess of about 200 mm annually. In any area having conditions above this range there exists an infinite variety of tree species grouped into a number of stable forest types that are determined by the specific conditions of the environment there. Forests can be broadly classified into many types, some of which are the Taiga type (consisting of pines, spruce, etc.) the mixed temperate forests with both coniferous and deciduous trees, the temperate forests, the sub tropical forests, the tropical forests, and the equatorial rainforests.
In India it is believed that organized exploitation of forest wealth began with an increase in hunting. Ashoka the Great is said to have set up the first sanctuary to protect the forests and all life in it. The Mughal rulers were avid hunters and spent a great deal of time in the forests.
It was during the British rule that the first practical move towards conservation in modern times took place. They established ‘Reserved Forest’ blocks with hunting by permit only. Though there were other motives behind their move, it at least served the purpose of classification of and control over the forests.
Sustainable management
Forests are rich and complex ecosystems, which support biodiversity, provide valuable ecological services, and have considerable potential for tourism. In particular, millions of poor people depend on forest ecosystems for food, water, fuel, fibre and both timber and non-timber products - indeed, for their very survival.
To achieve sustainability, there must be a rethinking of what we consider a basic need. It is common in our society to say that we need a given resource, but how much of it do we really need to use? Also, how do we decide what the basic needs of our ecosystem and the organisms living within it are? Defining what constitutes a basic need is perhaps the greatest challenge to adopting sustainable practices in our daily lives, as interpretations of need vary widely from region to region, village to village and even from person to person.
While ecologists are usually averse to putting a price on what is considered invaluable, the people argue convincingly that by not considering the economic benefits of forests, their conservation status is actually undermined because their diverse economic contributions remain largely unrecognised or undervalued.

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