Factors influencing the Distribution and types of Natural Forests

A forest is a continuous and extensive land covered with a closed stand of tall trees, usually of commercial value.

Forestry Is the science of planting caring and using trees/forests and their associated resources or the practice of managing and using trees/ forests and their associated resources

Factors influencing the Distribution and types of Natural Forests


Very cold conditions discourage the growth of forests.

In tropical areas where temperatures are high, forests grow faster than in temperate regions.

Forests require heavy precipitation throughout the year hence they will not grow in areas where precipitation and relative humidity are low.


Altitude affects temperature and rainfall.

low temperature results in slower forest growth and small size while high temperatures produce more luxuriant growth.

With an increase in either latitude and altitude, there is generally a decrease in the size, luxuriance, and rate of growth of forests.


Deep, well-drained, and fertile soils support plant life hence having the variety or dense forest cover.

Human activities

Humans have cleared forests to give room to farming and settlement.

Some trees have been cut to provide timber for fuel and building materials.

This has led to the destruction of many forested areas.


Forests do not grow on steep mountains where the surface is bare rock, the soils are thin and temperatures are low.

Windward slopes of high mountains like Kilimanjaro and Kenya usually receive higher rainfall amounts and therefore are forested.

The leeward slopes are covered with scrub vegetation


tropical rainforest are found in the tropics, equatorial regions like in the Congo Basin, Amazon basin. Caribbean islands, pacific islands in countries like DRC, Gabon, Argentina.

The following are problems faced in exploitation and conservation of equatorial or tropical rainforests:

  • Presence of wild animals like lions, snakes, hyenas, scaring labour supply.
  • Wet climatic conditions like heavy rainfall affect labour productivity, making transport routes like roads slippery and muddy.

  • Presence of pests and diseases affecting labour supplies like mosquitoes, tsetse flies, snails, causing diseases like malaria, sleeping sickness and Nagana.
  • Occurrence of accidents during lumbering leading to the destruction of people and property because of water bodies, steep slopes.
  • Poor transport and communication because the areas are remote and backward affecting the movement of labour and marketing.

  • Poor science and technology lead to the use of poor tools like pangas, axes, causing low production.
  • Political instabilities like rebel activities in the DRC scaring labour supply.
  • Limited capital to purchase modern equipment to develop infrastructure, processing factories because of low income in LDCs.
  • Presence of heavy and bulky logs which are expensive to exploit and transport.
  • Poor government policies like high taxes, not giving loans and gazetting forested areas for environmental conservation.

  • Fire outbreaks caused by human activities and natural conditions leading to the destruction of forests like by shifting cultivators, hunters, smokers.
The following are problems faced in exploitation and conservation of equatorial or tropical rainforests:
  • Limited market because of low incomes and low population leading to low production.
    Competition with other countries on the world market e.g. Canada, Norway, and Sweden because of having other substitutes.
  • Price fluctuations on the world market affecting planning because of depending on forces of demand and supply.

  • Population increase causing forest enlargement like for settlement and for agriculture.
  • Illegal lumbering causing overexploitation and exhaustion of forest species.Presence of buttress roots affecting lumbering and transport.
  • Long gestation because they are hardwood species affecting afforestation and reafforestation programmes.
  • Profit repatriation by foreign investors causing capital outflows and lowering the national income.
Population increase causing forest enlargement like for settlement and for agriculture

  • A limited power supply like expensive oil is used in lumbering and processing.
  • Ignorance and backwardness like the pygmies in the DRC scaring investors, workers and the shifting cultivators burning the forests.
  • Presence of poor hardwood species, not good for commercial exploitation and they have low demand on the world market. 
  • Presence of other resources like minerals, water bodies for fishing, fertile soils for agriculture leading to the diversion of labour and capital.
  • Presence of mixed-species making the forest dense and concentrates it in a jungle, increasing the costs for exploitation.

  • Presence of physical obstacles like relief features, water bodies, landforms making areas remote and backward.
Presence of other resources like minerals, water bodies for fishing, fertile soils for agriculture leading to the diversion of labour and capital.
Presence of mixed-species making the forest dense and concentrates it in a jungle, increasing the costs for exploitation.


10 Problems facing the forestry industry in East Africa

  • Deforestation due to the increased need for land for agriculture and settlement.
  • Wild animals graze freely in the forests leading to their destruction e.g. elephants.
  • Wild fires caused by either lightening or careless farmers leading to loss of extensive forested lands.

  • Scarcity of rainfall and prolonged drought due to increased desertification leading to short and stunted trees.
  • Population increase hence the need to create more land for settlement leading to clearance of forested land.
  • Limited alternative power sources have led to high demand for wood fuel and charcoal hence destruction of forests.
  • Increased urbanization has led to destruction of forests e.g. road construction and industrialisation.
  • Mining and quarrying activities have also led to the destruction of forests due to the need to expose mineral bearing rocks.

  • Occurrence of tree pests and disease that attack specific tree species leading to their depletion.
  • Long gestation of some tree species has also led to shortage of wood fuel.
  • Inadequate labour force to carry out forestry management.
  • Inadequate capital for investment in forestry management.
  • The bulky nature of some tree logs makes it difficult to transport them to saw mills.
  • Inaccessibility of some forests has made it difficult to exploit some of them.
The following are Problems facing the forestry industry in East Africa
Photo by HoliHo on Pexels.com
  • Corruption and embezzlement of forest funds by some forestry officials.
  • Limited valuable commercial tree species which leads to importation that is very expensive.
  • Insecurity and wars due to rebel activity has led to destruction of forests that are used as hide-outs for rebels.
  • Unfavorable government policies e.g. giving forested land to private investors to set up plantations hence clearance of forests.
  • Low levels of technology for exploiting forests e.g. use of axes and pangas.

  • Hostility of local communities towards forest staff hence creating insecurity for the forest guards.
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com


It is mainly done by the forestry department.

The forestry department looks after two types of forests and these are the indigenous and the exotic forests.

Most of the indigenous forests which are under the forestry department are forest reserves.

Forest reserves are forests set aside by the forestry department where people are not allowed to cut down trees anyhow. These are four different purposes.

Forest reserves in Malawi are found throughout the country especially in the northern part of the country.

The found in indigenous forests are hardwood trees, they do not grow in pure stands, and they have slow growth and do not grow straight.


  • Late burning of the forests
  • Deforestation through charcoal burning and visoso type of agriculture
  • Diseases and pests which attack the tress
  • Frequent droughts or unreliable rainfall


  • Allowing people to export timber to other countries
  • Employment of forest guards to control deforestation
  • Encouraging early burning of the forests
  • Establishment of the forestry department to control forestry
  • Establishments of sawmills in the entire plantation in Malawi
  • Introduction of Licenses to all those willing to burn charcoal or cut timber
  • Introduction of stiffer penalties to all those found cutting timber or production charcoal without permission
  • To encourage people to plant trees during the tree planting day


  • For the constant supply of timber
  • Promotion of tourism
  • Protection of the catchment areas
  • Protection of the soil from the Sun’s rays
  • To reduce soil erosion in the country.


Zimbabwe has large areas under savanna woodlands

These woodlands provide the people of Zimbabwe with forest needs e.g. charcoal and fuel wood

They savanna woodlands have limited supply of timber due to the following reasons:

  • Few savanna trees yield timber that is commercially valuable
  • Timber yielding plants such as teak, mukwa or muchibi do not grow in pure stand
  • The rate of growth of trees is slow.

Zimbabwe’s indigenous yielding timber trees are found in the following places:

  • North of Bulawayo on the Kalahari sands
  • On the slopes of Chimanimani in the Eastern Boarder Highlands

Zimbabwe’s exotic trees are planted in the following places:

  • North east of Bulawayo on the water-holding Kalahari sands
  • Staple Ford.

The Eastern Boarder Highlands are suited for the growing of exotic trees because of the following reasons:

  • Have a high annual rainfall of over 1,000mm
  • Have cool temperatures which are ideal for the exotic trees like pines which are temperate trees
  • Have reduced annual evaporation rates
  • They are a highland area.
  • The establishment of the expensive plantations has enabled the country to set up a pulp and paper mill at Mutare.


There are a number of natural and human factors which influence the growth of vegetation. These are:-

  • Careless cutting down of trees especially for fuel wood
  • Clearance of vegetation for agricultural purposes
  • Clearance of vegetation to accommodate urban development and expansion.
  • Destruction of vegetation by fires caused by people
  • Rainfall-water is responsible for the survival of all plant life.
  • Soil- The medium ii which plants grow
  • Temperature-This determines the environment in which plants grow because certain temperature levels promote plants growth whilst others retard it or even prevent it altogether.
  • The main controlling factor is climate, especially the rainfall and temperature.
  • The nutrients and water essential for plant’s growth are stored in the soil


Deforestation means the removal or destruction of forest and woodland. The reasons for deforestation are as follows:-

  • Population increase demands that more forests and woodlands are cleared for timber, farming, building of houses and wood fuel.
  • For instance, the most useful species of trees such as Msasa were rapidly cut down because they are hard woods which make good fire wood
  • Large-scale land clearance for commercial agriculture. This affected roughly a quarter of Zimbabwe’s total area or nearly 100,000km.
  • Increasingly demand for wood in industry and in urban areas e.g. for tobacco curing, fuel in towns, pit props in mining, sleepers for railways, and furniture.
  • Destruction of wood lands by animals, especially by elephants which were much more widespread.
  • Fire: man’s use has been described earlier on and fires caused by lightning have added to the areas destroyed.


There are many of these but the most obvious ones are:-

  • Areas experience reduced rainfall and increase in average temperature.
  • Reduction in the amount of rainfall and water supply. Low rainfall is received due to low transpiration.
  • Shortage of wood fuel, tree around urban areas of Zimbabwe e.g. Harare, Bulawayo and people travel long distances to look for fire wood.
  • There is a reduction in the quality of the environment, it loses its beauty.
  • There is general destruction of biodiversity, few trees survive bush fire.
  • Wildlife like birds and animals loose homes when trees are cleared.


They include the following trees:

  • Acacia
  • Mahogany
  • Cedar
  • Msasa

The central highland veld grew deciduous forests and tree savanna consisting:-

  • Msasa
  • Mubvumira
  • Mupaka (tree wisteria)
  • Muzeze ( African wattle)
  • Munyuna (yellow wood)
  • Mufuti
  • Mutobwe (snotapel)
  • Teak
  • Mukwa
  • Mucluibs.


Reforestation means the planting of trees on land where there was once forests or woodland which has been destroyed

Each year some 750,000 families use 3.6 million tones of wood for fire wood, building and fencing poles. To replace this many villages have planted eucalyptus trees

The total area of eucalyptus is only about 3,700 ha and 300 ha are planted additionally each year

It has been estimated that, to secure Zimbabwe’s wood fuel supplies, a planting program of 10,000 ha a year for ten years increased to 40,000 ha a year until the year 2000 would bring the total areas under eucalyptus trees to 600,000 ha.

The National Tree Planting Day (every first Saturday in December) introduced by government since independence is a national wide collective effort to plant trees which will also help meet the great demand for wood



The following is the importance of forest in Gabon:

  • It is a source of government revenue by taxing people, companies, industries leading to capital accumulation and improvement in international income
  • Climate modification leading to high rainfall in the surrounding areas through evaporation and evaporation leading to the development of agriculture

  • Source of materials for making local herbs, medicines, and chemicals for treatment of people and livestock
  • A source of building materials like timber, cardboard, wood pulp, cellulose, and these materials are used for furniture
  •  The provision of employment opportunities like lumbering, carpentry, furniture, and workshops leads to an increased standard of living.

  • Development of the tourism industry due to the presence of wildlife (flora and fauna) 
  • Economic diversification by influencing other activities like transport, trade, tourism, and industrialization
  • A source of foreign exchange by exporting forest products like timber, plywood, and wood pulp.
  • Protection of water catchment areas like the source of rivers for example river Ogouwe, Livindo
  • Provision of settlement for communities living depending on forest product and food gathering, for example, pygmies


A forest is a collection of trees, shrubs, grasses, herbs, mosses, fungi, or a large piece of land covered by either one or more specimen of trees that grows naturally or planted whereas forestry is the science of developing, managing, and protecting existing forests, in an effort to conserve them in their original form.

A forest is a large area of land that is covered in trees. It can be natural or planted. Forests provide a variety of benefits, including:

  • Oxygen production: Trees produce oxygen, which is essential for life.
  • Habitat for wildlife: Forests provide a home for a variety of animals, including birds, insects, and mammals.
  • Water purification: Forests help to purify water by filtering out pollutants.
  • Climate regulation: Forests help to regulate the climate by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.
  • Erosion control: Forests help to prevent erosion by holding soil in place.

Forestry is the management of forests. It includes activities such as:

  • Planting trees: Foresters plant trees to create new forests or to restore damaged forests.
  • Harvesting trees: Foresters harvest trees for timber, pulp, and other products.
  • Thinning trees: Foresters thin trees to improve the health of the forest.
  • Prescribed burning: Foresters use prescribed burning to reduce the risk of wildfires.
  • Wildlife management: Foresters manage forests to protect wildlife habitat.

The main difference between a forest and forestry is that a forest is a natural ecosystem, while forestry is a human activity that involves the management of forests. Forestry can have a positive or negative impact on forests, depending on how it is practiced.

Sustainable forestry is the practice of managing forests in a way that ensures their long-term health and productivity. Sustainable forestry practices include:

  • Protecting old-growth forests: Old-growth forests are forests that have not been logged for a long time. They are important for biodiversity and carbon storage.
  • Using selective harvesting: Selective harvesting is the practice of only harvesting mature trees, leaving younger trees to grow.
  • Replanting trees: Foresters replant trees after they have been harvested.
  • Using non-destructive harvesting methods: Foresters use methods that do not damage the forest ecosystem, such as cable logging.

Sustainable forestry is important for ensuring the future of forests. It provides a way to meet the needs of people for timber and other forest products while also protecting the ecological functions of forests.

Here are some additional points of difference between forest and forestry:

  • Forests are natural, while forestry is a human activity.
  • Forests provide a variety of benefits, while forestry is focused on the management of forests for human use.
  • Sustainable forestry is the practice of managing forests in a way that ensures their long-term health and productivity.