What is an underwater forest?

Imagine a forest underwater or a tapestry of green inside the ocean. That's just what a kelp forest is. Though kelps are considered the forests of the sea and look like plants, they are not plants. Kelps are large brown algae, and together, the different species of kelps form kelp forests.

The kelp forests figure among one of the most dynamic and diverse ecosystems on earth and offer a habitat for marine organisms such as invertebrates, fishes, and other algae and play many key ecological roles.

Kelps cover 25% of the world's coastlines. They provide food and shelter to marine animals. These can be seen around the world, across polar as well as temperate coastal oceans. They live in cold waters that are rich in nutrients.

While they remain attached to the seafloor, they grow towards the surface of the water and depend on sunlight to generate food. The ideal physical conditions are satisfied, then kelps can grow 45 cm a day. Some of these species are seen to measure up to even 45 m long.

Kelps and climate change

Kelp forests play a highly crucial role in battling climate change as they are good at sequestering carbon, thereby ensuring the health of the coastal environment. They are also capable of absorbing excess nitrogen and phosphorus that nun into the oceans from the land. Studies have shown that a third of the globe's coastal environments depend on kelp to combat local pollution and sustain fisheries. Apart from helping maintain the health of the marine ecosystem, kelps are also commercially harvested as they find applications in food production, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and so on.

The health of the kelps is dependent largely on oceanographic conditions and as such they can disappear and reappear based on this. For instance, sea urchins can destroy the kelp forests. Moreover, strong individual storms can affect the kelp forests by tearing out the kelps from the floor of the sea.

These dense canopies of algae are also facing many threats. Water pollution, rising sea temperatures, overgrazing, overfishing, and water pollution are some of the reasons for the depletion of kelp forests.

Studies prove that Southern Australia and Northern Califonia have lost 95% of their kelp forests. Their depletion is seen along the coastlines of every continent and this affects the fish, livelihoods and economy that are supported by the kelp forests.

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When boreal forests burn?

A large portion of our planet's land surface is covered by forests (of different types). These include tropical, subtropical temperate, and boreal forests. While forests the world over are threatened by global warming boreal forests grapple additionally with an issue unique to them. What is it? Come; let's find out the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere span Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, and Canada. Due to this vastness and the sheer number of trees they hold, these forests are an important carbon sink. Carbon has also accumulated over thousands of years in the soil due to the (long) time it takes for dead organic matter to decompose, thanks to the region's cold climate and water-logged ground. The ecosystems here have been shaped mainly by "wildfires ignited by lightning" During these fires, due to the quantum of carbon it holds, a boreal forest "will release 10 to 20 times more carbon compared to a similarly sized fire in other ecosystems". But then, unlike most other types of forests, these forests "might burn only once a century, sometimes even less often than that". Because of this frequency, the amount of carbon stored has always exceeded that of carbon released into the atmosphere; it has been so for at least 6,000 years now. But now global warming is threatening this delicate balance.

Due to rising global temperatures, the fire season has become longer, leading to an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires. As the "interval between fires shortens, more carbon is being released from organic soils in boreal forests than the ecosystems can reabsorb". A new study shows a dramatic spike "in emissions from boreal fires over the past two decades". In 2021 alone, they showed "a record 23% of global vegetation wildfire emissions, more than twice their contribution in a more typical year. If such spikes continue, it is likely that boreal forests may soon become a significant source of global emissions from biomass burning.

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Can reforestation alone save the Earth?

Trees are huge carbon sinks. They saok up the carbon. Planting trees will help mitigate the climate change and cool the planet to some extent. But that has to be combined with a dedicated effort to reduce carbon emission. Reforestation combined with the reduction of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), is the need of the hour. It is these gases that warm the earth, leading to climate change which we have been witnessing in many forms such as the melting of ice sheets, rising of sea levels, wildfires, floods, droughts and other natural calamities. So the carbon emissions need to be reduced by nations, on an industrial scale as well as individual level.

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Why is it important to increase forest cover?

When we speak about increasing forest cover, the main reason for doing so is perhaps that it takes in carbon, and so will help in tackling climate change. But, that's not the only thing forests do. Their benefits are interconnected in a way it can help humankind as a whole live well. Let's take a closer look at some of the ways in which they help us

Cooling effect

Keeping tropical forests standing provides a 50% greater impact on lowering global temperatures than can be accounted for simply through their carbon-absorbing abilities, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI), a think tank.

Stands of trees, for instance, provide "evapotranspiration" - the process by which water is released from the soil into the atmosphere to fall as rain. Such additional cooling impacts must be integrated into governments climate policies to fully reflect what forests do for the planet, the report said.

Food and water security

Forests help to maintain stable rainfall patterns and local temperatures, which are vital for food and water security, according to the WRI report.

 The Brazilian Amazon, for example, the report said, helps to maintain vital rainfall in several other countries, affecting agricultural production as far as Argentina. As deforestation turns parts of the world's largest tropical rainforest into dry savannah, scientists are concerned that the Amazon is edging towards a tipping point beyond which it might never recover.

A buffer against natural disasters

Another benefit that forests provide is their ability to act as a buffer against natural disasters, which have become increasingly common due to climate change. Tree canopies can intercept rainfall and slow it down in a storm, allowing up to 30% of the water to evaporate into the atmosphere without reaching the ground, according to Britain's Woodland Trust charity. In fact, some cities are using urban forests to become more resilient to flooding, as trees provide more permeable land to absorb rainwater.

Also, across the world's equatorial regions, mangrove forests not only store significant carbon but provide a defence against coastal erosion and storm surges

Global biodiversity

Another vital contribution of forests is their impact on biodiversity, with such ecosystems home to more than half of the world's land-based animal and plant species. As well as protecting nature, forests can provide a range of benefits to people, from forest foods to medicines. Especially in tropical regions, deforestation has been linked to increased outbreaks of infectious diseases, in particularly as animals come into closer contact with people. According to a recent analysis by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world's wildlife populations have declined by more than two-thirds since 1970, with deforestation a major driver.

Sustainable living

Deforestation leads directly to increases in local temperatures, exposing people and crops to heat stress, WRI said.

These local temperature extremes are a particular threat in the tropics for small-scale farmers, agricultural workers, indigenous people, and other local communities. Indigenous communities in particular rely on forests for their way of life. Research shows that they are also the best people to conserve these areas, leading to calls to put more in the hands of frontline communities.


• Forests are the largest carbon sinks on land - they remove about 7.6 billion metric tonnes of CO2 each year from the atmosphere.

• In the Amazon, more than 10,000 species are at risk of extinction due to the clearing of rainforest for uses such as cattle ranching and soy farming.

• In the Amazon basin, a 2021 report by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) showed that deforestation rates are up to 50% lower in indigenous peoples' forest lands than in other areas.

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Rainforests are regions that consist of several tall trees, most of which are evergreen ones, and receive a large quantity of rainfall. They play an important role in taking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and so, are often referred to as the lungs of the planet. They host an impressive variety of wildlife, and also influence weather patterns elsewhere in the world. All continents except Antartica house rainforests. The Amazon in South America is the world's largest rainforest.

Tropical rainforests are home to 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, all squeezed into a narrow strip of equatorial land. They are also home to millions of human beings that have been a part of forest ecosystem for thousands of years. While tropical rainforests are perhaps the most iconic, temperate rainforests are equally diverse and beautiful. Together, rainforests offer a gallery of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring places and creatures on Earth.

Since the beginning of history, humans have relied on rainforests, finding in them a steady supply of wood, plants, and animals, as well as fruits, fibers, grains, medicines, cloths, resins, pigments, and other materials. As millennia passed and many human communities moved farther away from the forest, our reliance on the forests did not weaken. Major trade routes, and even empires, developed to control the flow of the rainforest’s treasures.

Today, most of the industrialized world senses little connection to the rainforest, living in large, busy cities far away from these fertile ecological powerhouses. We forget that the forest regularly saves our global food supply by offering new, disease-resistant crops. We forget about the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of trade in timber, non-timber forest products and forest-derived pharmaceuticals. We forget about things that are ultimately beyond value: the livelihoods of millions of forest communities, a stable and livable climate for us all, the existence of most of our fellow species, and simple things we take for granted, like regular rain and clean air.

In tropical nations, many developing and debt-ridden, the forest is cleared in the hope of securing an economic future. Huge industrial interests—such as timber, agriculture, and mining—see an endless, profitable supply of cheap resources just waiting to be taken. Meanwhile, family farmers and loggers feel they have no option but to deforest in order to feed their families. However, innumerable studies and recent history show that little security can be found in tropical deforestation.

Thus far, our human family has erased half of our original endowment of rainforests. Our world is now facing a sixth mass extinction—the greatest extinction crisis since the fall of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The future of over half of Earth’s plants and animals—and hundreds of human cultures—will be determined within the next few decades. Since our lives are so dependent on the forest’s bounty, our future is at stake as well.

Credit : Rainforest aligns 

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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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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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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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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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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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I want to be a forest officer

I am a PCM student and want to be a forest officer or pursue a job involving forestry works. What should I do after my +2 for good jobs in this line?

Forest Service Officer is accountable for managing forests, environment and wildlife related issues of a forest division of a state or union territory. To become one, you should clear an exam for the Indian Forest Service (IFS), an all-India service. The examination for this highly competitive job is conducted by the UPSC. IFS is a combination of field-work and desk job. Science and engineering graduates are eligible to apply for this examination.

B.Sc. (Forestry), a 4-year course, can be done after Class 10+2 with Physics, Chemistry and Biology or Agriculture. However, for teaching and research positions, a higher degree (M.Sc. in Forestry or Ph.D.) is preferred. The Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal provides training in management of forests.

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