Forests and their distribution

Forests and their distribution
Posted on 19-08-2023

The term "Forest" finds its origin in the Latin word "Fores," meaning outside, with reference to village boundaries or fences. This encompasses all uncultivated and uninhabited land.

India showcases a diverse array of forests due to the uneven distribution of rainfall, temperature variations, and changing biotic conditions. Accordingly, India's forests can be categorized as follows:

  1. Moist Tropical Forest

    • Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests These are dense rainforests receiving over 250 cm of rainfall annually, with temperatures around 25-27°C. Humidity exceeds 77%, and there's a short dry season. Evergreen trees dominate, forming a lush, layered canopy that limits sunlight penetration. Found along the Western Ghats, in northeastern states, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Key species include measua, cedar, bamboo, and jamun.

  2. Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forests These forests are less humid than wet evergreen ones, with rainfall ranging from 200-250 cm. Located in Assam, Eastern Himalayan foothills, Odisha, and Andaman. Some transition between wet evergreen and deciduous forests. Notable species: semul, rosewood, kusum, and champa.

  3. Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests Found where rainfall ranges from 100-200 cm, and temperature is about 27°C. Occur along the Western Ghats, Shiwalik range, Odisha, West Bengal, and Andaman. Trees shed leaves for 6-8 weeks annually due to lower moisture. Valuable timber species include teak, sal, lendi, and bamboo.

  4. Littoral and Swamp Forests Occur in deltaic and estuarine areas, thriving in tidal influence. Swamp forests in Ganga, Mahanadi, Krishna, Cauvery deltas; mangroves on coasts. Species like sundri, agar, and palms provide durable timber.

  5. Dry Tropical Forests

    • Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests Found along Tamil Nadu coasts, receiving 100 cm of mainly October-December monsoon rain. Temperature averages 28°C, humidity around 75%. Trees include jamun, ritha, tamarind, and neem.

    • Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests Rainfall: 100-150 cm/year, transitions from moist deciduous to thorn forests. Distributed along Himalayan foothills to Kanniyakumari, excluding Rajasthan and parts of West Bengal. Species: teak, tendu, bamboo, and sal.

  6. Tropical Thorn Forests Flourish in low rainfall (<75 cm), low humidity (<50%), high temperature (25-30°C) regions. Acacias, Indian wild date are common, found in northwest India, along leeward side of Western Ghats.

  7. Montane Sub-Tropical Forests

    • Sub-Tropical Broad-Leaved Hill Forests Found in Eastern Himalayas at 1000-2000m, rainfall 75-125 cm. Evergreen oaks, chestnuts predominate, with ash, beech, sals, and pines at different elevations.

    • Sub-Tropical Moist Pine Forests Located at 1000-2000m in western Himalayas, with chir as a dominant tree.

    • Sub-Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests Found in Bhabar belt, Shiwalik, western Himalayas, rainfall 50-100cm. Olive, acacia, pistachio are common species.

  8. Montane Temperate Forests

    • Montane Wet Temperate Forests Grow at 1800-3000m, rainfall 150-300cm, temperature 11-14°C. Found in various hill regions, with deodar, Indian chestnut, birch, oak, and hemlock.

    • Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests Found between 1500-3300m, rainfall 150-250cm, covering Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim. Trees: pines, cedars, silver firs, spruce.

  9. Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests Coniferous forests with shrubs, found in areas like Ladakh, Lahul, Chamba, Kinnaur. Dominated by deodar, oak, ash, maple, and olive due to weak SW monsoon.

  10. Alpine Forests Grow above 3000m, common in main Himalayan regions and Trans-Himalayan cold deserts. Vegetation limited by snow, featuring junipers, honeysuckle, and willow.

Geographical Distribution of Forests in India: India's forest cover constitutes about 20.6% of its total area, below the global average. National Forest Policy aims for around 33% forest coverage. Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest area, while Andaman Nicobar islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, and Nagaland exceed 80% forest coverage relative to their geographical area.

Our planet, Earth, hosts a vast array of living creatures, ranging from microorganisms and lichens to massive banyan trees, elephants, and majestic blue whales. Regrettably, humans have transformed nature and wildlife into exploitable resources.

The ownership of most forest and wildlife resources lies with the Government of India, managed through agencies like the Forest Department. Forests are categorized into Reserved Forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests. More than half of India's forests are designated as reserved forests. Notably, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Maharashtra have substantial proportions of their forests classified as reserved forests.

Around one-third of India's forests are categorized as protected forests. These areas are shielded from further depletion. Notable examples include parts of Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, and Rajasthan. Together, reserved and protected forests are referred to as permanent forest estates. Madhya Pradesh leads with the largest share of permanent forests, encompassing almost 75% of its forested land.

The rest of the forests and wastelands, apart from the reserved and protected categories, are considered unclassed forests. A significant portion of forests in northeastern states and Gujarat falls under the unclassed forests category. Cultural beliefs have led to the preservation of specific tree species across India. Certain forest portions or entire forests are preserved by communities due to their religious significance. Such preserved forest areas are known as sacred forests. Certain animals are also considered sacred and thus protected from harm. Survival concerns have motivated local communities to actively participate in conservation efforts. Tribal communities have used the Wildlife Protection Act to combat ongoing mining activities within the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan.

Flora and Fauna in India India boasts rich biodiversity with a wide range of plant and animal species. Based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) classifications, existing species can be categorized as follows:

  1. Normal Species: Populations considered sustainable, like cattle, sal, pine, and rodents.

  2. Endangered Species: At risk of extinction, including the blackbuck, crocodile, Indian wild ass, Indian rhino, and more.

  3. Vulnerable Species: Populations declining and likely to become endangered, such as the blue sheep, Asiatic elephant, Gangetic dolphin.

  4. Rare Species: Small populations at risk of becoming vulnerable, like the Himalayan brown bear, wild Asiatic buffalo, desert fox.

  5. Endemic Species: Found only in specific isolated regions, such as the Andaman turquoise, Nicobar pigeon, Andaman wild pig.

  6. Extinct Species: No longer present, like the Asiatic cheetah and pink-headed duck.

Causes of Depletion of Flora and Fauna Various factors contribute to the depletion of forests and wildlife:

  1. Excessive Natural Resource Use: For human needs like wood, rubber, medicines, and food.

  2. Urbanization and Industrialization: Expansion of railways, agriculture, industries, and mining activities.

  3. Unequal Access to Resources: Inconsistent access and unfair utilization leading to environmental degradation.

  4. Community Involvement: Tribal communities actively participating in conservation due to their own survival concerns.

  5. Conservation Efforts: Conservation areas, laws, and policies implemented by the government and NGOs.

Conservation of Forest and Wildlife Resources Conservation is crucial to safeguarding forests and wildlife threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and poaching. In India, various conservation areas and laws have been established:

  1. Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Aimed at safeguarding areas and species.

  2. Initiatives for Specific Animals: Government actions to protect particular species.

  3. Banning Synthetic Chemicals: NGOs like Navdanya promote sustainable agriculture.

  4. Joint Forest Management (JFM): Involves communities in forest management.

  5. Active Community Efforts: The Chipko movement, local protection initiatives, and more.

Factors Affecting Distribution of Forest and Wildlife Resources Several abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living) factors influence the distribution of forest and wildlife resources. Abiotic factors include climate, soil, and elevation. Biotic factors encompass interactions between organisms. For instance, forests thrive in regions with high rainfall, fertile soil, and warmer temperatures. Presence of predators and competition for resources also impact distribution.

Sustainable Management of Forest and Wildlife Resources Sustainable management ensures the responsible utilization of resources without degradation. It involves conserving resources for future generations. Strategies include reducing deforestation, protecting habitats, sustainable land use, pollution reduction, and climate change mitigation. Sustainable management helps secure the longevity of these vital resources.

Forests and wildlife are essential components of Earth's natural balance. They provide necessities like food, water, shelter, and air purification. However, human activities threaten their existence. To ensure the survival of forests and wildlife, it's crucial to adopt sustainable management practices and engage in active conservation efforts.


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