A forest is a piece of land on which there are many trees. There are many different types of forests, so it is not always clear what a forest is. A forest should be of a certain size, the trees should be rather tall, and there shouldn’t be too big a gap between the trees.
Forests grow wherever there is enough rain. In addition, it must not be too cold. That is why forests are not found in hot, dry deserts, near the North Pole and the South Pole, or in the highest mountains.
Whoever divides forests into species thinks primarily of the trees that grow there. Here in Central Europe, a distinction is made between coniferous forests with coniferous trees and deciduous forests with deciduous trees. In the mixed forest, there are both coniferous and deciduous trees.
Forests are recreational areas, tourists like to hike in them. Foresters have the job of making sure that everything is in order in the forest. They also cut down trees and ensure that young trees grow back.
A primeval forest has grown in nature without people doing anything about it. People have not changed it either, for example, no trees were cut down and new ones were planted. There are very few primeval forests like this in Europe. The largest is in Bialowieza National Park in Poland. However, he is also threatened. There are some other, smaller primeval forests in Europe, also in German-speaking countries. Some of them were hardly changed by humans, but some of the changed forests were left back to nature. In this way, over time, they become real primeval forests again.
Many animals live in forests, including some large ones such as red deer and moose. However, most forest animals are rather small. For some, the forest is so important because they live on a tree or have their nests there. Others live in the scrub and undergrowth.
What types of forests are there in the world?
The biggest difference is the proximity to the equator. But the height above sea level is also important because it gets colder higher up. Then it also depends on whether the wind brings rain or dry air with it. The soil also plays an important role, especially in how much fertilizer it contains.
Rain forests grow in the tropics, i.e. near the equator. There are only deciduous trees there. Their trunks don’t form annual rings because there are no seasons. The trees grow regularly here, all year round. Cloud forests grow in the mountains of the tropics, for example in the Andes in South America or on Kilimanjaro in Africa. Mangrove forests that endure saltwater grow on tropical coasts.
Seasons already exist in the subtropics. There are monsoon forests here. The monsoon is a wind that brings heavy rain at certain times of the year. Where these winds do not blow, there are drier forests. Some very expensive types of wood such as teak and mahogany grow there. Where it is even drier, thorn forests grow. If it gets even drier, savannahs develop.
Deciduous forests grow in the southern part of the warm-temperate zone of the earth. Some of these trees do not lose their leaves in winter. Such forests are mainly known in the Mediterranean.
In the northern part of the warm-temperate zone, i.e. also in most of Europe, there are deciduous forests, coniferous forests, and mixed forests. Alluvial forests grow with regular flooding along streams and rivers. Deciduous forests no longer grow higher up in the mountains, only coniferous forests. They are also called mountain forests.
Only coniferous forests grow in the cold-temperate zone. They are called taiga. They form about a third of all forests in the world. Even further north there are only a few trees, that’s the tundra.
Why are forests important to people?
In the past, almost all of Europe was covered by forests. But people began cutting down many forests in ancient times. They needed the wood so they could build something with it, like houses or ships. In addition, you can burn wood and then have it warm in winter.
The people also wanted to have the area on which a forest stood. That is why forests were cut down or burned down in order to build a village there or to plant fields. It’s called “digging”. If Rode or Reuth is in the name of a town today, as in Walsrode or Reutlingen, then there was a forest there before the Middle Ages.
Forests are still important to the economy today. When you cut down trees, you can sell the wood. To ensure that all the trees are not gone at some point, you have to reforest after clear-cutting, which means planting new trees. It is even better to cut down only part of the trees and let the young trees grow back.
The trees of a forest protect the ground. With their roots, they ensure that the earth is not washed away after heavy rain. They also hold back the water so it drains more slowly into the streams and rivers. In addition, there is a lot of oxygen in the forests that we breathe need.
In the mountains, forests prevent avalanches from occurring. This is what happens when there is a lot of snow in open, steep terrain. Such forests are called protection forests. However, they cannot stop an avalanche that is already thundering down.
What do people think of when they think of a forest?
In ancient times there was much more forest in many parts of Europe. But people have cut down more and more pieces of forest. There you could cultivate fields or found villages. You can sometimes tell by the name: If a place has the word Rohde in its name, then a forest was probably cleared there beforehand.
People still need new land and wood. Huge forests are being cut down in South America, Asia, and Africa. As a result, there are fewer different animal species there. It’s called species extinction.
Even if a forest is to remain to stand, people sometimes endanger it. In Europe, for some time, there was talk of dying forests: many trees lost their leaves, and had diseased trunks, and stunted roots. It is believed that this was mainly due to polluted air.
Certain animals can make sick trees even sicker. The bark beetle lays its eggs under the bark of decaying trees. The larvae then eat through the wood and cause a lot of damage.