One theme that is on-going throughout the GCSE geography course is the idea of sustainability. Wood is a useful and potentially sustainable resource for many reasons, so it is natural that humans use forests. Temperate deciduous woodlands are used for a variety of purposes and, when managed carefully, they provide examples of successful, sustainable use of our planet.
The temperate zone lies between the polar regions and the tropics and contains large areas of forests as well as smaller woodlands. Deciduous is a word used to describe trees that lose their leaves in the autumn then re-grow them the following spring. Deciduous forests provide humans with hardwoods like oak and beech - they are also used for recreation and as places where wildlife conservation takes place. In times past, charcoal was an important fuel for industry before large scale coal mining took place. Nowadays, the uses of charcoal are much more limited but there are still a few charcoal burners around.
The timber from temperate deciduous forests in Britain is used in several different ways. Oak is used in construction, it can be used as beams or made into doors and windows. Oak is also used to make high quality furniture and durable (long lasting) floor coverings. In other parts of the world, the trees will be different to those in Britain but the uses of timber from the forests will be similar. Beech and ash are used for making furniture too, but also can be used as firewood. In the New Forest in Hampshire, timber is taken by local timber mills to make fencing products.
In order to make sure that the overall structure of a deciduous forest is maintained, controlled felling takes place. This can mean that only trees of a certain age and certain species are felled. The number of trees taken is limited. This ensures that the forest can regenerate over time and be used in the future. Coppicing and pollarding are two other sustainable management techniques that have been in use for many centuries. These produce many thinner shoots that can be harvested after a few years and used to make items locally like baskets and fencing to benefit the local economy. Perhaps the most obvious form of sustainable management is replanting - the felled trees are replaced with young trees of the same type.
Deciduous forests provide areas for recreation - cycling, walking, horse riding and running are popular but there are opportunities for other outdoor activities such as fishing in forest lakes. Lots of visitors in a forest can damage it by causing erosion, dropping litter and disturbing the wildlife, so the routes through the forest are usually well marked and maintained, ensuring that the forest is available for future generations to enjoy.
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