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Focus on Forests (text version)

Shrinking Forests

The first forests existed about 400 million years ago and they have been evolving ever since. There are now many different types and there are different ways of grouping and naming them. The world map shows where the two major types of ‘moist’ forest are located. ‘Moist’ is a general description indicating that there is a lot of rainfall, all year round. Tropical moist forest is found between the tropic of cancer and the tropic of capricorn and the temperate moist forests are north and south of these latitudes.

Mangroves grow on muddy coasts with their roots washed by tidal waters. Theses roots provide a sheltered space which acts as a fish ‘nursery’ for many species. Mangrove forests are being cut down throughout the tropics. The wood is greatly in demand to make scaffolding and in building construction. The wood is even used for charcoal in British barbecues.

This site focuses mainly on tropical rainforest.

Nearly all these forests are shrinking. Some loss occurs accidentally, through natural fire or hurricanes, for example, but these areas usually grow again. However, most of the deforestation is caused by people, either because trees are cut for fuel, timber or wood pulp and not replaced, or because the land is needed for something else. This might be growing crops on farms or plantations, or raising livestock, or it might be to make way for mining, dams, roads and settlements.

Britain has already lost most of its own forest and on a day-to-day level we don’t seem to miss it, so does it matter if a lot more forest disappears throughout the world?

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This site is funded by DFID and has been produced by the World Land Trust.