Management and Use of Deciduous Forests

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.

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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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  1. Why must the recreational use of a forest be carefully managed?
    Small mammals can become trapped in discarded items of litter and it is possible that bottles can act as magnifying glasses, focusing the Sun's heat on one spot causing a forest fire
  2. A sustainably-managed deciduous forest would support the local economy and help to reduce the rural to urban migration. Which of the following is the least-likely business to benefit?
    The bed and breakfast and bike hire businesses cater for the recreational uses. The furniture making business is close to the source of its raw materials. The car showroom does not depend on being close to a deciduous forest
  3. What is controlled felling?
    Controlled felling helps to preserve the overall structure of the forest
  4. Which of the following statements about the management of a deciduous forest is correct?
    Management needs to be a balance of conserving the land and wildlife with keeping it open to the public
  5. Which of the following is not a sustainable method of managing a deciduous forest?
    Coppicing and pollarding do not kill the trees, rotten wood is good for wildlife but removing the young trees would mean that the forest would not regenerate
  6. Epping Forest is an area of ancient woodland to the north of London. The forest managers have established a field study centre there. How does this help with the sustainable management of the forest?
    Education is an important part of the sustainable management of a deciduous forest
  7. What type of wood is obtained from a deciduous forest?
    Deciduous trees are slow growing and produce hardwood
  8. Which of the following is not a use of a deciduous forest?
    There are many recreational uses for a deciduous forest including outdoor activities and wildlife watching. In Epping Forest, just to the north of London, there are even football pitches and a golf course!
  9. Which of the following is not a use for the wood from a deciduous forest?
    Diesel fuel comes from crude oil
  10. A deciduous forest contains...
    There may be some evergreen trees in a deciduous forest but the majority of them must drop their leaves in autumn otherwise it is called mixed woodland

Author: Kev Woodward

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