Wednesday, April 4, 2007

How to monitor the health of a forest

The dependence of the insect population on plant diversity is both food and habitat specific. The honey-bee is placed at an important noble centre of this food-chain. It interacts with all the tiers of the forest and collects nectar from a variety of plants. The honey-bee can therefore be used to monitor the health of a forest. With its help it is possible to identify deforestation before it gets too late. A forest with abundant honey must therefore have the following properties: a high canopy, having grown through a 3-4 storey structure of a forest; dense undergrowth; and a rich diversity of flowering plants providing an important source of nectar. Finally, there must be continuous water supply.

In a healthy forest, honey-bees, of which there are several kinds, gather nectar from flowers distributed over different stories of a forest. This is their territory of operation. They prefer not to be disturbed in their work of honey production. Some are more sensitive to human sounds, such as tiger-bees. Accordingly, they make their hives in high places, like tall trees, on rocks and st0nes on top of hills, between crevices, or inside tree trunks. These living spaces are normally shaded and in proximity of water sources.

(p.480 'Environmental Issues in India: A Reader' edited by Mahesh Rangarajan, Pearson www.pearsoned.co.in)

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