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In the previous lesson, you learnt about vegetation. There are many types of vegetation among them are forests.The term forest refers to an area characterized by dense and continuous tree cover and other woody vegetation growing close together. In Kenya, forests cover about 2% of the land area.
They comprise natural and planted forests grown for industrial purposes. However, these forests have been grouped into four according to the physical and climatic characteristics of the area in which they occur. These forests are:
Forests and forest products are important resources. For this reason, forests should not be destroyed so that they could be used many years into the future. The importance will be discussed under the following headings.
By the end of the session you should be able to; a) define:
b) describe the distribution and types of natural forests.
c) discuss the significance of forests and forest products to Kenya.
d) identify and explain problems facing forestry in Kenya.
In the previous session, you learnt about vegetation. There are many types of vegetation among them are forests.In this session we are going to look at forestry which is a human activity.
Definition of Forest
A forest is a continious growth of trees and undergrowths covering large tracts of land. while forestry is the practice or the science of cultivating and developing forests and forest products.
The distribution of forests vary according to some conditions such as climate, soils, altitude, slope and human actities. In the past, forests covered large areas of the earth's surface. However, most forests are now been cleared and reduced in size due to human activities. Today, the average forest cover in the world is 20%. Forests can be natural or planted. Natural forests are composed of trees which grow naturally in an area. Planted forests are made of trees which have been planted. They are also called cultivated forests. Trees found in the forests can be hardwoods or soft woods.
Distribution of natural forests.
Factors influencing distribution and types of forests
Altitude and slope
Altitude leads to zonation of vegetation on mountains. Temperatures drop as altitude increases. Trees will only grow below 3500 metres in tropical areas. Altitude also enables a variety of species to grow in highland areas.Steep slopes with thin eroded soils can support very few trees.
Slopes that are warm and wet have more luxuriant vegetation than the cooler slopes. This is very distinct in the mid latitudes in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Human beings have contributed in clearing large tracks of forests in the world by encroaching for settlement and agriculture and wood fuel.
On the other hand, man has created new forests and conserved the original forests. Many governments have also created forest reserves and protected them from wanton destruction.
It contains three types of forests namely:
- Tropical rain forests
- Tropical monsoon forests
- Mangrove forests
Mid latitude zone (Md)
This zone lies between latitudes 30 and 45 North and South of the Equator.
It contains three types of forests.
Mediterrenean forests (mf)
Temperate evergreen forests (Te)
Temperate deciduous forests (Td)
Temperate zone (Tp)
This zone lies between latitude 45 and 75 N. It consists of two types of forests
Mixed forests (Mf)
Coniferous forests (Cf)
Types of forests
Tropical hardwood forests
These are forests growing naturally in parts of the tropical regions across the world. The main species in west and central Africa where the forests are extensive include Ebony, Ironwood,Mahogany, Sapele,Okuome,Sapele, Iroko and Rose wood.In Kenya, species indigenous to the region include Meru Oak, Elgon Olive, Elgon teak, Camphor and Mangroves. The main tree characteristics of this class of forests are:
Some trees are evergreen
Very tall trees with straight trunks
Some trees have huge trunks with buttressed roots
The trees are very heavy
The trees take along time to mature
They have broad leaves
The Temperate hardwood forests
These forests are also known as temperate softwoods.They lie between 500
North and south of the equator.They are most extensive in Eurasia and America with smaller patches to the South.Coniferous forests have the following characteristics:
Cone shaped seeds (coniferous)
The trees are evergreen
They have narrow, needle-like leaves
Trees are light, softwoods
Trees is little or no undergrowth
Trees can grow very tall (100 metres) with huge trunks. The trunks are also straight.
The trees crowns at the top (cone shaped)
Trees have thick barks
The roots are shallow and fibrous
The trees mature after a long period of time (50-70 years)
Some of the species in these forests include a variety of pines, firs, spruce, larch and hemlock.
Over exploitation of forests
Pests and diseases
Pests and diseases are a major problem affecting forests in Kenya.
Tree diseases and pets like Aphids can lead to extinction of large tracts of forest land with valuable tree species.
In Kenya some forests have been turned into game reserves, others converted into public utilities such as show grounds while some portions have been allocated and converted to private land.
There are also certain parts of the forests which have been converted into government land. All these activities reduce the total of acreage under forests in our country
Poor forest management
In the past, the management of forests in Kenya has not been done as per the; aid down policies. For instance, some corrupt officials and citizens, carry out illegal logging and trade of timber.
In Kenya, debarking forests has threatened the existence of forests.
By the end of the lesson, you should be able to discuss ways and means of managing forests
Management of forests
The survival of forests is threatened by deforestation as people clear the trees for a variety of uses such as, cultivation, construction, settlement and fuel.Forest products are a major source of fuel for most households, they provide job opportunities and also help modify the climate.
Kenya's forest cover continues to be lost at an alarming rate which can only be checked through proper Management and Conservation.Forest Management is the effective planning and control of forests.The following measures are used to manage forests; Enactment of Laws on Management of Forests
Encouraging people to use alternative sources of energy or energy saving measures.
The government has established institutions to train personnel to work in the forests e.g Londiani Forestry Training College and Moi University Faculty of Forestry.
Continued research on the requirements of Tree species and control of pests and diseases that affect trees.
Public campaigns on the importance of forests conducted by the government and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as The Green Belt Movement.
Employing Forest Rangers to guard the forests from indiscriminate tree felling.
Creation of forest reserves aimed at protecting indigeneous trees. Forest reserves can be found in Simba Hills, Arabiuko- Sokoke, Mt. Kenya, Mau Forest, Aberdares Forest and Kakamega Forest.
The planting and replanting of forests plantations is done at different times so that trees mature at different times.
by the end of the session you should be able to discuss ways and means of conserving forests.
This is the planting of trees where none existed before. This has mostly been done in arid and semi arid areas using Exotic trees which grow and quickly.
This is where farmers intercrop various crops with trees. These tree can be used by farmer for both domestic and commercial purposes. This in effect stops misuse of natural forest.
It is the planting of trees where deforestation has taken place.Examples in Kenya are the highland areas of Arbedares.
Laws such as forest bill 2000 have been put in place to help in forest conservation.
Creation of Forest Reserves
The Kenya government has gazette some forest reserves. This is also meant to protect water catchment areas and prevent soil erosion. For example Mau and Aberdares.
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