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FOREST BURNING

Slash and burn consists of cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields for agriculture or pasture for livestock, or for a variety of other purposes. It is sometimes part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock herding. Historically, the practice of slash and burn has been widely practiced throughout most of the world, in grasslands as well as woodlands, and known by many names. The practice has been mostly abandoned over the past few centuries. Today the term is mainly associated with tropical rain forests. Slash and burn techniques are used by between 200 and 500 million people worldwide.

FOREST BURNING

An area of primary or secondary forest is selected, and the vegetation is cut and allowed to dry. Large trees are often girdled and allowed to die standing. Some trees are often left standing, especially those viewed as useful, such as food producing trees like chestnuts or economically valuable trees like teak. Portions of the cut timber or saplings are often gathered to use for firewood or to make charcoal. After some period of time (a week to a few months) the residual dry vegetation is burned. Plots are cultivated for a few seasons (usually one to five years) and then abandoned as fertility declines and weeds invade. Such abandoned plots often become used as pasture for livestock. If the forest is allowed to recover, pasture becomes rough pasture for a while. Recovering woodlands are sometimes treated as "fallow" land, which means it is to be subjected to another round of slash-and-burn in the future.

Burning removes the vegetation and may release a pulse of nutrients to fertilize the soil. Ash also increases the pH of the soil, a process which makes certain nutrients (especially phosphorus) more available in the short term. Burning also temporarily drives off soil microorganisms, pests, and established plants long enough for crops to be planted in their ashes. Before artificial fertilizers were available, fire was one of the most widespread methods of fertilization. Slash and burn requires a relatively low human population density or a continuing supply of new "frontier" lands, since the recovery of forests may require many decades or even human generations.

FOREST BURNING

 

burned forest

 

 

FOREST BURNING

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