Types of Forest
Natural vegetation refers to a plant community that has been left undisturbed over a long time to allow its species to adjust themselves to climate and soil conditions as fully as possible.
India is a land of a great variety of natural vegetation. Himalayan heights are marked with temperate vegetation; the Western Ghats and the Andaman Nicobar Islands have tropical rain forests, the deltaic regions have tropical ebony, etc. forests and mangroves; the desert and semi-desert areas of Rajasthan are known for cacti, the variety of bushes and thorny vegetation. Depending upon the variations in the climate and the soil, the vegetation of India changes from one region to another.
Based on certain common features such as predominant vegetation type and climatic regions, Indian forests can be divided into the following groups:
Types Of Forests:
Tropical Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen forests
Tropical Deciduous forests.
Tropical Thorn forests
Littoral and Swamp forests.
1. Tropical Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Forests
These forests are found on the western slope of the Western Ghats, hills of the north-eastern region, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
They are found in warm and humid areas with annual precipitation of over 200 cm and a mean annual temperature above 22°C.
Tropical evergreen forests are well stratified. layers closer to the ground and are covered with shrubs and creepers, with short structured trees followed by tall trees.
In these forests, trees reach great heights up to 60m or above.
As such these forests appear green all year-round. Species found in these forests include rosewood, mahogany, and aini.
The semi-evergreen forests are found in the less rainy parts of these regions. Such forests have a mixture of evergreen and moist deciduous trees.
The undergrowing climbers provide an evergreen character to these forests. The main species are white cedar, hillock, and kail.
2. Tropical Deciduous Forests
These are the most widespread forests in India. They are also called the monsoon forests. They spread over regions that receive rainfall between 70-200 cm.
On the basis of the availability of water, these forests are further divided into moist and dry deciduous.
Moist Deciduous Forests
The moist deciduous forests are more pronounced in the regions that record rainfall between 100-200m.
These forests are found in the north-eastern states along the foothills of the Himalayas, eastern slopes of the Western Ghats and Odisha.
Teak, Sal, shisham, hurra, mahua, amla, Kusum, sandalwood, etc. are the main species of these forests.
Dry Deciduous Forest
Dry deciduous forest covers vast areas of the country, where rainfall ranges between 70-100 cm. On the wetter margins, it has a transition to the moist deciduous, while on the drier margins to thorn forests.
These forests are found in rainier areas of the Peninsula and the plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In the higher rainfall regions of the Peninsular plateau. and the northern Indian plain, these forests have a parkland landscape with open stretches in which teak and other trees interspersed with patches of grass are common.
As the dry season begins, the trees shed their leaves completely and the forest appears like a vast grassland with naked trees all around. Tendu patas, amaltas, bel, khair, axlewood, etc. are the common trees of these forests.
In the western and southern part of Rajasthan, vegetation cover is very scanty due to low rainfall and overgrazing.
3. Tropical Thorn Forests
Tropical thorn forests occur in the areas which receive rainfall less than 50 cm.
These consist of a variety of grasses and shrubs.
It includes semi-arid areas of southwest Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
In these forests, plants remain leafless for the most part of the year and give an expression of scrub vegetation.
Important species found are babool, ber, and wild date palm, khair, neem, khejri, palas, etc
4. Montane Forests
In mountainous areas, the decreased temperature with increasing altitude leads a corresponding change in natural vegetation Mountain forests can be classified into two types, the northern mountain forests, and the southern mountain forests.
The Himalayan ranges show a succession of vegetation from the tropical to the tundra, which changes in with the altitude.
Deciduous forests are found in the foothills of the Himalayas, It is succeeded by the wet temperate type of forests between an altitude of 1000-2000 m.
Deodar, a highly valued endemic species grows mainly in the western part of the Himalayan range. Deodar is a durable wood mainly used in construction activities. Similarly, the chinar and the walnut. which sustains the famous Kashmir.
The southern slopes of the Himalayas carry a thicker vegetation cover because of relatively higher precipitation than the drier north-facing slopes. At higher altitudes, mosses and lichens form part of the tundra vegetation.
The southern mountain forests include the forests found in three distinct areas of Peninsular India viz: the Western Ghats, the Vindhyas and the Nilgiris.
As they are closer to the tropics, and only 1.500 m above the sea level, vegetation is temperate in the higher regions, and subtropical in the lower regions of the Western Ghats, especially in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.
The temperate forests are called Sholas in the Nilgiris, Annamalai and Palani hills.
Some of the other trees of this forest of economic significance include magnolia, laurel, cinchona and wattle. Such forests are also found in the Satpura and the Matkal ranges.
5. Littoral and Swamp Forests
India has a rich variety of wetland habitats. About 70 per cent of this comprises areas under paddy cultivation. The total area of wet land is 3.9 million hectares. Two sites Chilika Lake (Odisha) and Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur) are protected as water-fowl habitats under the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention).
An international convention is an agreement among member states of the United Nations.
The country’s wetlands have been grouped into some categories, viz.
the reservoirs of the Deccan Plateau in the south together with the lagoons and other wetlands of the southwest coast:
the vast saline expanses of Rajasthan, Gujarat and the Gulf of Kachchh;
freshwater lakes and reservoirs from Gujarat eastwards through Rajasthan (Keoladeo National Park) and Madhya Pradesh;
the delta wetlands and lagoons of India’s east coast (Chilika Lake): (v) the freshwater marshes of the Gangetic Plain;
the floodplains of the Brahmaputra; the marshes and swamps in the hills of northeast India and the Himalayan foothills:
the lakes and rivers of the montane region of Kashmir and Ladakh; and
the mangrove forest and other wetlands of the island arcs of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Mangroves grow along the coasts in the salt marshes, tidal creeks, mud flats and estuaries.
They consist of a number of salt-tolerant species of plants. Crisscrossed by creeks of stagnant water and tidal flows, these forests give shelter to a wide variety of birds.
FOREST COVER IN INDIA
According to state records, the forest area covers 23.28 percent of the total land area of the country.
The forest area is the area notified and recorded as the forest land irrespective of the existence of trees, while the actual forest cover in the area occupied by forests with a canopy.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands have 86.93 percent. Most of the states with less than 10 percent of the forest area lie in the north and north-western part of the country. These are Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, and Delhi.
Most of the forests in Punjab and Haryana have been cleared for cultivation. States percent forest area is Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
In Peninsular India north-eastern states have more than 30% of the land under forest.