Ecological Benefits of Bamboo Introduction
In the previous one or two decades, the rate of environmental depletion has been increasing at an alarming pace with increased global warming and impact of deforestation making headlines on almost every news article on our television screens to newspapers. A person cannot tune through three pages of a newspaper without coming across environmental related news. Thanks to that, different ecological bodies and organizations have come together to find a solution, and one of the developments that they have come up with include the use of bamboo. In the past, the plant was famous for its industrial applications and its ability to bring out amazing pieces of furniture, beautiful floors, and art pieces. Nonetheless, as the efforts to find a solution to the increasing deforestation and global warming impact increase, most environmentalists have concluded that bamboo could help mitigate these problems. This discussion aims at examining ecological benefits of bamboo.
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo is a type of grass species that is widely distributed across different parts of the world such as Africa, Southeast Asia, and many others (Lobovikov, Ball, Guardia, & Russo, 2007). There are over 1500 species of bamboo worldwide, and mostly they occur temperate and tropical environment. Being a grass species, it is easy for most people to wonder how it is beneficial to the environment and if it is why other species are not playing the same role (Song et al., 2011). Features of Bamboo as a Grass Species Bamboo is not like any other grass species. Instead, it is a unique perennial, and woody stemmed type of grass is commonly known for its fast growth.
According to Xu et al. (2011), it can grow up to a full meter in a day if exposed to the right condition and most bamboo species take about three to five years to mature fully. Additionally, giant bamboo species such as Guadua Angustifolia require more carbon for their food making and growth processes and hence tend to absorb more of it, and as a result, they release approximately 35% more oxygen to the environment in comparison to the amount released by trees (Mena, Vera, Correal, & Lopez, 2012). It also has a widespread root system, and it requires no irrigation or the use of pesticides and herbicides for it to achieve its growth. Moreover, it can grow and survive in a diverse range of environmental conditions and requires no replanting and will automatically regrow once it is cut but that only happens if the roots are not cut out (Xu et al., 2011).
How Bamboo Benefits the Ecology Ideal wood replacement
Although the period it takes for a tree to grow to maturity depends on a variety of factors, all trees have a common aspect, and that is they take time to develop with some of them taking 10-15 years to reach full maturity while others take 20-30 years. That is why the impact of deforestation is usually significant because even when a single tree is cut, and another one is planted to replace it, it will take a long time before it can help the environment. However bamboo grows fast because it takes about 3-5 years for it to reach full maturity (Liese & Köhl, 2015). Furthermore, it can serve the same purposes that a tree serves such as paper-making, building furniture, roads, and bridges and can even be used as a source of fuel (Meredith, 2001). Therefore, its versatility and a wide array of uses make it an ideal replacement for wood and hence reduces the need to cut down trees which means less deforestation and more forest cover without hurting the economy or the livelihood of the people who used to depend on trees for income.
More forest cover automatically means cleaner air and a sustainable environment for wildlife thus leading to a balanced ecological cycle. Acts as a carbon sequester: In connection to its fast growth rate, bamboo has higher carbon requirements in comparison to conventional plants and trees, and it is the rule of photosynthesis that carbon gets in and oxygen is released. Thanks to its fast growth, bamboo is one of the best carbon sequesters, and according to research, some bamboo species can help absorb about twelve tons of carbon from the environment per hectare, and as mentioned earlier they release 35% more oxygen to the atmosphere than a tree. Hence it helps in cleansing the air which is beneficial not only to humanity but the entire ecological system including marine animals (Song et al., 2011).
Protects the soil
As mentioned earlier, one of the features of bamboo is its widespread root system which grabs and holds onto the soil firmly. This aspect is even one of the reasons why it does not require replanting because when cut, the roots remain and hence it will naturally grow again. Due to this nature, it holds on to the topsoil, and its nutrients, therefore, prevents erosion during heavy rainfall and mudslides. That not only protects the soil but the ecology as well; reason being if erosion takes place, the soil is usually washed down to the rivers, lakes and other water sources affecting the marine animals found there and also the lives of people who depend on such sources for drinking water or any other purposes. Also, topsoil boasts most nutrients, and when it is eroded, all the nutrients are carried away thus leading to slow growth rates of the existing vegetation. Nevertheless, with the presence of bamboo such occurrences are minimized if not eliminated (Mishra, Giri, Panday, Kumar, & Bisht, 2014). It is a source of food for both wild and domestic animals: According to Liese and Köhl (2015), most herbivores feed on bamboo, for instance, animals like elephants, zebras, wild beasts and even domestic animals like cows, goats, and donkeys feed on the plant. Other reports show that even monkeys do feed on bamboo (Bystriakova, Kapos, & Lysenko, 2004). Therefore when the bamboo cover increases, the population of such animals will increase because they will have a reliable source of food. Additionally, bamboo thrives is a wide range of environments from arid to the tropical and due to that, it will do well even in the dry season and hence provide food for such animal (Lobovikov et al., 2007).
That means the dependents of animals such as elephants in the ecological cycle will not be affected and thus the entire environmental system benefits. Conclusion Bamboo is the next big thing for our environment. It provides the best solution for deforestation which is one of the biggest threats to humankind because it leads to most of the environmental problems which is very common today such as increased global warming and carbon. In addition to acting like a carbon sequester, bamboo protects the soil and also acts as an ideal food source for both the domestic and wild animals. What makes it even better is the fact that it solves so many problems and yet brings with it a diverse range of economic benefits.
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