Natural Vegetation: Forest in India

»A forest is a large area dominated by trees.
»According to the widely used Food and Agriculture Organization definition, forests covered four billion hectares (15 million square miles) or approximately 30 percent of the world's land area in 2006.


Forests in India

»Forestry in India is a significant rural industry and a major environmental resource.
»India is one of the ten most forest-rich countries of the world along with the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, United States of America, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Australia, Indonesia and Sudan.
»Together, India and these countries account for 67 percent of total forest area of the world.
»India's forest cover grew at 0.22% annually over 1990-2000, and has grown at the rate of 0.46% per year over 2000-2010,after decades where forest degradation was a matter of serious concern.
»As of 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates India's forest cover to be about 68 million hectares, or 22% of the country's area.
»The 2013 Forest Survey of India states its forest cover increased to 69.8 million hectares by 2012, per satellite measurements; this represents an increase of 5,871 square kilometers of forest cover in 2 years.
»2013 forest survey data
»According to India's 2013 forest survey report, the forest cover in top five states has increased, with the exception of Arunachal Pradesh.
State
Area
(in million hectares)
Madhya Pradesh
7.75
Arunachal Pradesh
6.73
Chhattisgarh
5.6
Maharashtra
5.06
Odisha
5.03

»Ranking of Indian states with maximum percentage forest cover is as follows:
1.    Mizoram
2.    Lakshadweep
3.    Andaman & Nicobar
4.    Arunachal Pradesh
5.    Nagaland
6.    Meghalaya
7.    Manipur
»Above states have more than 75% area under forest.

Types of Forests in India

»Based on climatic conditions, forests are divided into five categories. They are −
1.   Tropical Evergreen and Semi Evergreen forests
2.  Tropical Deciduous forests
3.  Tropical Thorn forests
4.  Montane forests
5.  Littoral and Swamp forests
»The above five types of forests are found in India which cover nearly 17 per cent of the total area of Indian territory.

1. Tropical Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Forests

»Tropical Evergreen and semi-evergreen forests are typically found in warm and humid areas with rainfall more than 200cm and mean annual temperature more than 22 degrees.
»In India, evergreen forest are found in western slopes of Western Ghats, hilly areas of N.E states, Andaman and Nicobar islands.
»No fixed seasons for flowering, shedding or fruiting in these forests.
»They are green all the year round.
»Very dense forests and well stratified.
»Very tall Trees which can go upto 60m or above are found in Tropical Evergreen forests.
»Main Species- Rosewood, Ebony, Mahagony etc.
»Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forests are found in less rainy areas of the region. These forests have mix of Evergreen and Deciduous varieties.
»Main species of Semi-evergreen forests are white cedar, hollock ,kail , oak, chestnut etc.

2.Tropical Deciduous Forests

»Tropical Deciduous Forests are the most widespread forests of India and are popularly as Monsoon Forests.
»Tropical deciduous forests are found in the regions, which receive rainfall between 70 and 200 cm.
»Tropical deciduous forests are further categorized as the Moist deciduous forests and Dry deciduous forest.
»The moist deciduous forests are found in the regions, which record rainfall between 100 and 200 cm.
»The moist deciduous forests are found along the foothills of the Himalayas, eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, and Odisha.
»Teak, sal, shisham, hurra, mahua, amla, semul, kusum, and sandalwood etc. are the main species of the moist deciduous forests.
»Dry deciduous forests are found in the regions that receive precipitation between 70 and 100 cm.
»As the dry season begins, the trees of deciduous forests shed their leaves completely.
»Tendu, palas, amaltas, bel, khair, axlewood, etc. are the major trees of dry deciduous forests.

3. Tropical thorn Forest

»This forest occurs in areas of low rainfall less than 50cm.
»Forest types are saprophytic in nature.
»Trees are shorter than deciduous type.
»These forests mostly occur in the scanty rainfall region of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. Most of the species are ‘acacia’ type.
»Babool, ber, and wild date palm, khair, neem, khejri, palas, etc. are the important species of tropical thorn forests.

4. Mountain Forests

»Mountain forests in India are normally classified into two types, i.e. the northern mountain forests and the southern mountain forests.
»Deciduous forests are found in the foothills of the Himalayas.
»Temperate forests found between an altitude of 1,000 and 2,000 m.
»In the higher hill ranges of northeastern India; for example, hilly areas of West Bengal and Uttaranchal, evergreen broad leaf trees such as oak and chestnut are predominant.
»Chir, deodar, pine, etc. are the important species of temperate forests.
»Between 3,000 and 4,000 m, Silver firs, junipers, pines, birch, and rhododendrons, etc. are found.
»However, at higher altitude, the tundra vegetation is found and major species are mosses and lichens.
»At a higher altitude, the southern mountain forests largely belong to the temperate type, which are locally known as ‘Sholas’ in the Nilgiris, Anaimalai, and Palani hills. Some of the trees of economic significance include magnolia, laurel, cinchona, and wattle.

5.  Littoral and Swamp Forests

»They can survive and grow both in fresh as well as brackish water (The mixture of seawater and fresh water in estuaries is called brackish water and its salinity can range from 0.5 to 35 ppt).
»Occur in and around the deltas, estuaries and creeks prone to tidal influences (delta or tidal forests).
»Littoral (relating to or on the shore of the sea or a lake) forests occur at several places along the coast.
»Swamp forests are confined to the deltas of the Ganga, the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Cauvery.
»Dense mangroves occur all along the coastline in sheltered estuaries, tidal creeks, backwaters, salt marshes and mudflats. It provides useful fuel wood.
»The most pronounced and the densest is the Sunderban in the Ganga delta where the predominant species is Sundri (Heriteera).
Timber
»It provides hard and durable timber which is used for construction, building purposes and making boats.
»The important species found in these forests are Sundri, agar, rhizophora, screw pines, canes and palms, etc.
Frequently asked:
Which state has the highest forest area in India?
Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover of 77,522 sq. km. in terms of area in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh with forest cover of 67,321 sq. km.

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