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O Level Elective Geography
Chap 4: Forests as a Resource

1) Maintaining water supply
(a) Quantity of water in forested areas
 Replenishing of rainwater
 Plays significant role in water cycle.
 Vegetation transpiration releases water vapour into atmosphere which encourages cloud
formation and hence rain.
 Ensures groundwater flow that replenishes water supply
 Leaves and branches of vegetation intercept forming a vegetation cover which reduces
impact of water on ground.
 More water is allowed to seep into the ground to become groundwater instead of flowing
over.
 This ensures continuous flow of water that replenishes water supply.

(b) Quality of water in forested areas:
Comparison of water quality in forested area VS urban area

Forested area Urban area
 Natural filtration processes
 Rainwater seeping into the ground is
filtered by soil layers which trap
impurities between the pore spaces,
resulting in clear groundwater.
 The vegetation cover intercepts
rainwater to reduce its speed and flow.
This prevents soil particles from being
washed into rivers by rain.
 Hence, water collected in rivers are of
better quality as it contains few
sediments and impurities.
 No filtration processes
 Concrete surfaces of urban areas do not
allow water to seep through. Rainwater
flows over it carrying impurities on the
ground surface along.
 Rainwater flows into drains, canals and
eventually the sea.
 Water quality in urban areas is
therefore poorer as it contains more
sediments and impurities.

2) Maintaining fixed air composition (replenishing O
2
and removing CO
2
)
 Plants photosynthesize to remove CO
2
from the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas.
 This reduces the amount of CO
2
in the atmosphere, thus preventing global warming through
excessive greenhouse effect.
 O
2
is released during photosynthesis, replenishing Earth’s O
2
supply which is essential for life.

3) Maintaining nutrients in soil (Nutrient cycle)
 Forest vegetation ensures leaf litter, which decomposes to release nutrients into the soil,
making it fertile.
 Roots of vegetation hold onto the soil firmly, preventing rain/wind from removing the fertile top
layer of the soil. This prevents soil nutrients from being removed through soil erosion which may
reduce the soil’s fertility and hence its ability to support vegetation growth.


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4) Preventing floods and protecting coasts
 Preventing floods
 Roots of forest vegetation prevent soil erosion by holding onto the soil firmly.
 Without roots, eroded soil deposited into rivers will cause the river bed to become
shallower. This reduces its water storage capacity and the river eventually overflows its
banks (floods).
 Protecting coasts
 Mangrove forests protect coastal areas from storms and strong waves.
 For example, mangroves prevented some coastal villages from destruction in the 2004
Indian Ocean Tsunami.

5) Natural treatment of waste water
 Mangrove forests act as “natural treatment plants” being able to process waste materials
carried by the water, including household rubbish and human waste.
 Roots of mangroves trap waste materials and filter the water.
 The soils in mangroves contain bacteria that break down biodegradable waste and convert them
into nutrients.

6) Habitat for flora, fauna and people
 Forests are natural habitats to ½ of the flora and fauna species in the world.
 Without forests, natural habitats will be lost leading to the endangering and extinction of
innocent plants and animal species, like the Orang Utan and giant pandas.
 It is also home to 60 million people who live in the TRs of Africa and SEA, including natives and
shifting cultivators.

8) A source of useful materials
 Timber
 Timber and other commercially valuable trees are logged by timber companies to
manufacture paper, furniture, and to construct buildings.
 Meranti trees in TRs are used to manufacture furniture.

 Fuelwood and charcoal
 In LDCs like Africa and India, fuelwood is gathered for cooking and heating purposes.
 Charcoal is also used as a fuel for cooking in many countries.
 In Malaysia, certain mangrove trees are used to make charcoal.

 Food for native people
 Sago is harvested by native people of Borneo for food.
 The natives get their main source of food from the forests which include plants and animals.

 Medicines
 Some plants of medicinal value are used to make medicines and drugs.
 For example, cough syrups can be made from the Eastern White Pine tree found in
coniferous forests.

 Chemicals
 Useful chemicals are extracted from forests, including tannin which is used to treat leather.

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9) Research and education
 Scientific research is conducted in forests to develop new medicines and varieties of crops.
 Crops like bananas and cocoa are cultivated for food.
 Forests enable scientists to study the interactions between forests and the environment as
well as how weather changes can affect forest ecosystems.

10) Recreation
 Forests provide people with a place for recreational activities like hiking and camping.
 Ecotourism has gained popularity and Taman Negara in Malaysia has been promoted as an
ecotourism destination.
 This way, income can be generated through tourism while forests are conserved.


Notes: