7 junio, 2024

Forest spaces: concept, types, characteristics, examples

What are forest spaces?

The forest spaces They are geographical areas occupied by forests, natural jungles or forest plantations, from which the human being obtains resources and services. Although in a strict sense a forest space is any area occupied by trees, it is used more broadly for those areas where human beings obtain natural resources.

These resources are called forest resources and are of two general types: timber and non-timber resources. Where the timber are the different types of wood that are obtained from these spaces.

While non-timber forest resources include fibers, fruits, fodder, medicinal plants, resins, latex and others. In this sense, the concept of forest space ranges from the taiga or boreal forest to the Amazon jungle, as well as timber tree plantations.

Each of these spaces is very different and therefore deserves a particular management, which guarantees its sustainable use. Worldwide, forest spaces represent 3,952 million hectares of natural forests and jungles, as well as close to 170 million hectares of forest plantations.

The Latin American countries with the largest area in forest spaces are Brazil (477.7 million hectares), Peru (68.7 million) and Mexico (64.2 million). They are followed by Colombia (60.7 million), Bolivia (58.7 million) and Venezuela (46.6 million).

Characteristics of forest spaces

Let’s see the characteristics that forest spaces have:

dominant plant type

Forest spaces are plant formations where trees predominate, that is, plants with a woody trunk greater than 4 m in height and with a crown of leaves. These trees form a more or less continuous and dense cover in space.

Types of forest spaces

Forest spaces are very diverse in their form, although they can be basically grouped into two categories, artificial and natural. The artificial ones are those created by the human being by planting trees in a territory where they did not previously exist.

Natural forest spaces arise from natural processes and are divided into forests and jungles. Forests develop in regions with a temperate or subtropical climate. While the jungles are forest spaces typical of the tropics, with greater complexity in their form and biodiversity.

Biological Diversity

Forest spaces have a variable biological diversity, although in general greater than many other natural spaces. At the least diverse end are artificial forest spaces or forest plantations. While the most diverse are tropical forest spaces or jungles, such as the Amazon jungle.

Ability to withstand disturbances

Forest spaces have a delicate ecological balance, which makes them particularly sensitive to alterations. This is because they form their own internal microclimate thanks to the community of trees, which among other things protects the soil. Therefore, when deforestation occurs (drastic removal of tree cover), the ecosystem takes time to recover or fails to do so.

If deforestation is very high, the forest space ceases to exist and becomes a desert. Between 1990 and 2005 the loss of forest spaces worldwide has occurred at a rate of 130,000 km2, which is equivalent to an area like that of Greece.

Source of raw materials and environmental services

Forest spaces are useful for humans because they allow obtaining various raw materials or natural resources. The main one is the wood that is used in construction, joinery, paper production and other uses.

Additionally, raw materials for industrial and artisan use such as gums, resins, rubber, fibers and others are extracted. Similarly, forest spaces are a source of plants for medicinal use, as well as food.

On the other hand, they provide forest services by capturing atmospheric CO2, playing a role in the water cycle and regulating environmental temperature. They also conserve biological diversity and serve as a place for recreation.

Management plan

To guarantee sustainable use over time of forest spaces, they must be subject to a rational management plan. That is, their resources should not be extracted without taking into account the capacity of the forest space to recover.

In this sense, if a certain number of trees or other plants are removed from the forest, an equal or greater number must be replaced. This is achieved either by planting new individuals or by giving time and conditions for natural recovery to occur.

Forest spaces of the world

The forest spaces of the world occupy around 30% of the emerged terrestrial surface. The largest are the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere, both in North America and Eurasia, as well as the equatorial tropical forests.

Taiga or Siberian boreal forest (Russia)

Russia owns 815 million hectares of forest space in the form of forests, representing 22% of the world’s forest area. Most of them are boreal forests or taiga, which are cool forests dominated mainly by coniferous trees.

Brazilian Amazon (Brazil)

Brazil has 493 million hectares of forest spaces, both jungles and forests. For its part, the Brazilian Amazon occupies 250 million hectares, covering 9 states: Amazonas, Pará, Amapá, Roraima, Rondônia, Mato Grosso, Acre, Tocantins and Maranhão. It is the largest continuous tropical forest space in the world and the main carbon sink.

Canadian Forests (Canada)

An important part of the forest spaces corresponding to the boreal forest and the temperate forests, is in Canada. Canada’s total forest area is 347 million hectares, more than 23 times the forest area of ​​Europe. There are eight major forest regions in Canada, each with its own mix of species, including temperate-zone conifers and flowering trees.

Tongass National Forest (USA)

The USA has a forest space of 310 million hectares covered with forests. Of these, 60% are forest spaces dedicated to commercial exploitation, especially to extract wood.

In southeast Alaska is the largest forest area in the US, the Tongass Forest, which covers 69,000 km². Until the 1940s, most logging in the Tongass was done by hand. After World War II, the United States has pushed logging on an industrial scale.

The forest of Uverito (Venezuela)

The Uverito forest located in eastern Venezuela, in northern South America, is a forest plantation. It became the largest artificial forest space or forest cloth in the world.

In its beginnings it covered an area of ​​600,000 hectares, although in 2019 there were only 100,000 hectares left. The dominant tree is the Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea), a species introduced in that country for the purpose of producing pulp for paper.

Forest spaces of Mexico

The Mexican forest space includes forests that cover about 17% of the national territory and jungles that occupy just over 15% of the territory. Of the 7 million hectares that are forested, only half is done with modern techniques that can guarantee some sustainability.

Durango Forests

The state of Durango is one of the most important in forest production, from forest spaces located along the Sierra Madre Oriental. The forest space of this state corresponds mainly to pine forests (Pinus spp.) and mixed forests of pine and oak (quercus spp.).

An outstanding example of forest management in these spaces is the General Emiliano Zapata Union of Ejidos and Forest Communities (Unecofaez), which benefits 10,500 families. Thanks to its sustainable management, it is possible to conserve one million hectares of forest in the northwest of Durango.

Chihuahuan forests

This Mexican state is the largest and the one with the largest forest areas in the country. Pine forests predominate there, although there is a moderate proportion of mixed pine-oak forests. In total it reaches an area of ​​about 5.1 million hectares of forests.

Oaxacan forests

The forest spaces of this state extend mainly through the Sierra de Juárez, including forests of pine-oak, pine-fir (open spp.) and pine. As well as tropical forests in the lower parts, including deciduous forest and evergreen forest. Throughout the state, forest spaces reach 9,000,000 hectares.

Yucatan forest space

An important part of the Yucatan peninsula forms a forest space of low to medium tropical forests. Said space has determined a forestry activity for the use of forest resources since pre-Columbian times. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the region’s main economic source was the export of the palo de tinte tree (Haematoxylum campechianum).

While for the 19th and 20th centuries they were the latex of the chicozapote (manilkara zapota) and the fine woods of mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and cedar (cedrela odorata). Today the forest spaces of Yucatan are threatened by excessive deforestation.

Mexican timber company Proteak

In Mexico, the artificial or plantation forest space reaches close to 1 million hectares. These forest spaces are distributed in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Mexico, Puebla, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Nayarit and Veracruz.

An example of this is the Proteak company that operates in the states of Nayarit and Tabasco. In Tabasco, more than 20,000 hectares of commercial forest plantations were established, in places where there were previously no forests.

References

Alonso-Velasco, I. and Velázquez-Torres, D. (2019). The geopolitical context of logging in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Geographical perspective.
Escárpita-Herrera, A. (2002). Current situation of the forests of Chihuahua. Wood and Forests. Institute of Ecology, Xalapa, Mexico.
FAO (2006). Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005. Progress towards sustainable forest management. FAO Forestry paper.
Ibarra, V. (2008). Forest spaces and power structure. A proposal from political geography. Contemporary Issues. Mexican journal of political and social sciences.
Peaks, J. (2013). Forest industry and timber market: sailing in the storm. 6th Spanish Forestry Congress. Spanish Society of Forest Sciences.

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