Life in Forests:
Trees are the pillars of the forest upon which much of the other forest life is shaped. Associated with them, there may be more than a thousand kinds of shrubs, vines, herbs, ferns, mosses, and toadstools, even in a small area of a forest. Using trees as support, the smaller plants grow in their shade, and depend on the high humidity that the canopy of leaves maintains. As we have said above, all these constitute different layers of vegetation. In addition, the forest consists of all sorts of animals such as, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Forests are also the house of a variety of insects, mites etc. Some seek nectar fr6m the flowers, others feed on green leaves and tender parts of plants, some bore deep . holes in the wood, some form mines in the plant tissue and so on. Ants and termites are everywhere. It is a very rare forest that'does not harbour a dazzling collection of beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers, spiders, scorpions and other insects. The abundant insects constitute the prime food for birds. Man too is a member of the forest community -and probably is the most destructive of all! Men are mostly, intruders, who go into the forest for collecting wood or even for cutting down trees to prepare land for cultivation. There are, however, small segments of human population known as tribes, who live in the forests. Theyhave perfect adaptation to the environmental conditions of forest life.
Let us have a closer look at the forest and its life. First we shall see what is there on the forest floor. The dead leaves, twigs and fallen branches lie in heaps on the forest floor. At a casual glance, they appear as a lifeless rotting mass. But actually they form the cover of a hidden world of forest soil. These heaps enclose and shelter more life than can be found in any other layer of the forest. Under these, the inhabitants live, in numbers that stagger one's imagination. There are very tiny organisms such as bacteria, protozoa, algae, fungi, mites, and bigger ones like millipedes, beetles, many forms of insects and earthwoms. By the activity of the micro-organisms, the dead organic matter isbroken dawn simpl$.fwms that mix with soil and thus become available for the plants. The occasional fires in forests due to lightning or other reasons, also help in the recovery of nutrients from the dead organicmatter. Fire bums dead matter, and the resultant ash containing minerals, eventually mixes. with the soil.
Besides the small creatures in the forests, ther,e are other life forms that are much bigger in size and can be easily seen. All these have remarkably ingenious specialisations for life in forests. For example, various-types of birds live on tree tops and feed on fruits or tiny insectsliving on plants. For this purpose, they have highly specialized beaks and claws, some of which are shown in Fig. oodpeckers climb on tree trunks and extract insects hidden under the bark with their strong and pointed beak. For this purpose, they also have shak and curved claws to hold firmlv to the tree trunk . In addition different'animals have adapted to noctural or diurnal habits depending on when they can easily feed and also remain protected. The owls, for example, hunt at night because that is" when the rodents (rats etc.) they eat, roam about in open in search of food. The mesh of branches in the forest makes rapid movement difficult for many animals es~ecially the large ones, like the elephant, buffalo, leopard and several others. Each of them possesses one or more adaptations for moving through the undergrowth. Some of these are: strength, weight of body, stout limbs and wedge-shaped head. Creatures like the owl, that hunt at night haw Iarge, sensitive eyes and acute hearing power. Bats, which also fly at night, locate their prey with the help of high pitched sound which they produce. This sound on reflection from even small animals, discloses their position to the bats.