A Forest is an expanse of land covered with trees and bushes as well as crude forage plants. Forests are said to be natural when they grow wild..
They may also be planted. It can also be described as a complex ecological system dominated by trees, grasses, and other living organisms.
In forest lands, timber, perennial and special tree crops, as well as animal protein sources, are provided and form important forest resources.
Types Of Forest
Forests can be classified into forests mangrove, tropical rain forests and derived forests.
i. Mangrove Forests: These types of forests are swampy and found in the coastal areas of Niger and the Atlantic Ocean in the South-South zone, including the tidal estuaries of rivers around the lagoons. The plants here are mostly herbaceous, with presence of occasional creeping plants . In West Africa region in general, the mangrove forests are not too important as main sources of forest products like timber and other species of tall straight trees.
ii. Tropical Rain Forests: These are characterized by many trees. The tropical rain-forest is mostly evergreen and exists in areas with high annual rainfall range. The annual temperature is high with little variations and important sources of valuable forest products, particularly timber and other tall trees species.
iii. Derived Forests: These are characterized by the presence of scanty or few trees. They are regarded to as savanna woodland. The savanna consists of short trees, herbaceous plants, and grasses. This type of forest is vulnerable to bush fires. It is a useful range land for grazing ruminant animals. The derived forest is referred to as savanna grassland because it is dominated by grasses.
It is characterized by temperatures, low annual rainfall, low humidity, and prolonged dry periods. This can extend to the sahel zone with very sparse vegetation, extreme water shortage, and extending into the desert areas with little farming activities taking place.
The benefits or resources from the forests include: trees, wildlife, fruits, various herbs and shelter.
Big trees like Iroko, Mahogany, Sapele, etc, are important forest resources that provide timber and numerous other timber products.
ii. Wild Life:
This provides animal products and protein nutrient as well as game animals and tourism potentials. They provides hides, horns, ivory, bones, etc.
Fruits rich in vitamins and minerals are provided in the forests as well as vegetable products.
iv. Useful Herbs:
Some useful medicinal and other herbs are available in the forests, E.g: Shear butter, Wax, Gum Arabic, Dyes, etc.
Materials For building constructions are provided in the forests, e.g: Thatching materials, etc. Tree canopies in the forests provide shelter for animals in the forests.
USES OF FOREST RESOURCES
The Followings are the uses And Benefits of the forests resources:
i. Provision Of Timbers: Some timbers are exported as logs, but large proportion is sawn into planks for construction of furniture, housing, plywood, and other timber products.
ii. Electric Poles And Railways sleepers can be gotten from the forest trees.
iii. Source Of Income: It Provides income to individuals and the government from the various timbers and other products.
iv. Large amount of fibres, latex, gum, resins, oils, and numerous plant products are obtained from the forests.
v. Source Of Medicinal Herbs: Many drugs used in the treatment of diseases are obtained from forest herbs, trees and roots.
vi. Soil Protection And Erosion Control: The Forest cover, protects the soil from erosion. Steep slopes subjected to erosion, and landslides may be stopped due to forest, to protect and preserve the soil, and serve as wind breaks.
vii. Provision Of Raw Materials: Industrial raw materials are supplied from forest products, E.g. hides and skin. Also, wood pulp from timber is used for paper production. Gums, tannins, and resins are provided from the forest.
viii. Employment Opportunities: Forest guards are employed for protection of forest resources. People are hired to harvest and process harvested products. As tourism centres, employment opportunities are created.
ix. Environmental Modification: The forests beautify the environment and modify it by keeping it cool. This also makes them suitable homes for wild animals.
x. Fuel: Forest provides domestic fuel for cooking in the form of firewood.
xi. Grazing Area: The forest provides grazing area for grazing animals like cow, sheep, goats, etc.
HUMAN ACTIVITIES THAT AFFECTS THE FORESTS
Certain activities of man help deplete forest and forest resources. These are;
i. Deforestation: This is the deliberate and uncontrolled removal or clean felling of the forest trees. It is the destruction of the forests for agricultural , construction, and other non-agricultural purposes. This action of man if not checked, would have attendant dangerous effects.
ii. Hunting: Indiscriminate hunting or poaching of animals in the forests, may destabilize the natural balance in the ecosystem. This will lead to depletion of wild life.
iii. Bush Burning: This practice tends to destroy the organic content of the soil which is disadvantageous. The vegetation is eliminated and only some handy trees may withstand this, and animal grazing area is affected. Soil surface is also exposed to erosion.
iv. Farming Activities: The natural forest is often cut down for farming activities. In the zones where the forest is regularly cleared, farmed and abandoned, succession takes place and the area degenerates into forest shrubs and grasses devoid of large trees.
v. Animal Grazing Over-grazing by land animals may lead to depletion of vegetation cover, with the possibility of taking over from vegetation.