Types of Forests in India

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Forests in India

Varied types of forests are found in the Indian subcontinent. Primarily, there are 6 major groups, namely, Moist Tropical, Dry Tropical, Montane Sub Tropical, Montane Temperate, Sub Alpine, and Alpine. These are further subdivided into 16 major types of forests. Evidently, India has a diverse range of forests : from the rainforest of Kerala in the south to the alpine pastures of Ladakh in the north, from the deserts of Rajasthan in the west to the evergreen forests in the northeast. While classifying the forests into different types, the main factors taken into consideration include soil type, topography, and elevation. Forests are also classified according to their nature, the type of climate in which they thrive and its relationship with the surrounding environment.

One such way is in terms of the Biome in which they exist combined with leaf longevity of the dominant species ( whether they are evergreen or deciduous ). Another distinction is whether the forests composed predominantly of coniferous ( needle – leaved ) trees, broadleaf trees, or mixed. There is no universally accepted or set principle to classify forests. The different types of forests in India are discussed below. Rainforests are those forests which are characterised by high rainfall between 1750mm and 2000mm and belong to the tropical wet climate group.

The Various Types of Forests in India are Discussed Below :

1. Tropical Rain Forest in India

Tropical Rain Forests maybe called the lowland equatorial evergreen rain forests. These forests incur heavy showers of 100 – 600cm a year, and hence the name, Rainforests. For this reason, the soil can be poor because high rainfall tends to leach out soluble nutrients. These forests experience an average temperature of about 26 degrees Celsius, with no pronounced cold or dry spells. The quantity of life found in these forests and its diversity makes them vital. Some of the strangest and most beautiful plants and animals are found in rain forests. They also contain a large amount of natural medicines. Rainforests are dominated by the broad – leaved evergreen trees, which form a leafy canopy over the forest floor. Taller trees, called emergent, may rise above the canopy. Coffee, chocolate, banana tree, mango tree, papaya tree, avocados and sugarcane all originally came from tropical rainforests, and are still mostly grown on plantations in regions that were formerly primary forests.
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1.  Tropical  Found in places with Chhotanagpur Plateau Deciduous or rain Tall between covering east Madhya Monsoon 150 to 200 cm. Pradesh, south Bihar, west

  • Trees are 30 to 45 Orissa and along the metres tall. Shiwaliks in the north.
  • Important trees are sal, teak, shisham, sandalwood, etc.

2. Tropical Dry Found where rainfall Maharashtra, Andhra is between 75 to Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, 100 cm. Haryana, Tamil Nadu,

  • Trees are 6 to 9 northern and western parts of metres tall. Madhya Pradesh.
  • Important trees are neem, shisham, babul, pipal, mango, etc.

3. Thorn  Found where rainfall North-western part from is below 75 to Saurashtra in the south to 100 cm. Punjab plains in the north.

  • Common trees are northern Madhya Pradesh, kikar, babul, khair south – west Uttar Pradesh. and date palms.
  • Delta or  Found in tidal areas Sundarbans of the Ganga Tidal and the delta region. delta, deltas of the Mahanadi,
  •  Sundari and mangr – the Godavari, the Krishna ove trees are found and the Cauvery, and the abundantly. Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

4. Mountaineous

  • Main trees are Himalayan parts of West oaks, chestnuts, sal, Bengal, Bihar and pines, cedars, spruce, Uttaranchal, the Nilgiris, the deodar and Annamalai and Palani Hills, eucalyptus.
  •  Mahabalcshwar, Deodar provides Western Ghats, the Satpura, fine durable wood the Maikal and the Abu Hills. for construction and railway sleepers.

2. Temperate Deciduous Forests in India

Temperate Deciduous Forests are those, which consist of predominantly broad – leafed trees.

Deciduous Forests are of two Types :

  1. Temperate
  2. Tropical.

Temperate deciduous forests occur in areas of moderate temperature and rainfall with cold winters. Species belonging to these forests drop leaves in autumn. The deciduous forests in tropical areas shed leaves only by December ( in the Northern Hemisphere ) when water becomes scarce. The tropical monsoon deciduous forests are found in areas receiving annual rainfall of 100 to 200cms in India, with a distinct dry and rainy seasons and a small range of temperature. The deciduous forest can further be divided into Moist and Dry.

3. Moist Deciduous Forests in India

The moist deciduous forests are found throughout India except in the western and the north – western regions. They occur on the wetter western side of the Deccan Plateau, the north – eastern part of the Deccan Plateau and the lower slopes of the Himalayan Mountain, on the Siwalik Hills from Jammu in the west to West Bengal In the east. The trees have broad trunks, are tall and have branching trunks and roots to hold them firmly to the ground. These forests are dominated by Sal and Teak, along with Mango, Bamboo and Rosewood.

4. Dry Deciduous Forests in India

Indian Dry Deciduous Forests are found throughout the northern part of the country except in the Northeast. It is also found in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The canopy of the trees does not normally exceed 25 metres. The principal trees of these forests are Indian Teak Tree, Sal, Sandalwood, Mahua, Khair, Mango, Jackfruit, Wattle and Arjun, Semal, Myrobalan and Banyan Tree.

Moreover, Littoral and swamps are scattered through out the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as well as the delta area of the Brahmaputra River and the River Ganga. Usually, mangrove dates, whistling pines, bullet wood and royal palm tree are predominant here. They contain roots that have of soft tissue so that the plant can obtain oxygen from the water.

5. Geographical Distribution of Indian Forests

Eastern zone consists of moist, deciduous and wet evergreen forests. The Western zone forms the other extreme. It comprises mainly of thorn and dry deciduous forests. Northern and Central zones consist mainly of dry and moist deciduous forests. Southern zone incorporates characteristics of both Western and Central zones. It comprises mainly of thorn dry and eastern highlands moist deciduous forests.

Forests are mostly exclusive and they are indispensable in further existence of life. Forests serve as a home to many species. Deforestation is the reason of global warming. To prevent that problem Government of India has taken many necessary steps for the plantation of trees.

Forests of India

  1. The ‘jungles’ of India are ancient in nature and composition. They are rich in variety and shelter a wide range of avifauna and mammals and insects. The fact that they have existed for very long time is proved from the ancient texts all of which have some mention of the forests. The people revered forests and a large number of religious ceremonies centred on trees and plants. Even today in parts of India the sacred groves exist and are worshipped.
  2. When Chandra Gupta Maurya came to power around 300 BC, he realized the importance of the forests and appointed a high officer to look after the forests. He launched the concept of afforestation on a large scale. These rules continued even during the Gupta period.
  3. During the Muslim invasions a large number of people had to flee from the attacks and take refuge in the forests. This was the beginning of a phase of migration to the forest. They cleared vast areas of forests to make way for settlements.
  4. The Muslim invaders were all keen hunters and therefore had to have patches of forests where they could go hunting. This ensured that the trees in these areas were not felled, and the forest ecology was not tampered with.
  5. During the early part of the British rule, trees were used for timber and forests were cut for paper. Large numbers of trees such as the sal, teak, and sandalwood were cut for export also. The history of modern Indian forestry was a process by which the British gradually appropriated forest resources for revenue generation. Trees could not be felled without prior permission and knowledge of the authority. This step was taken to ensure that they were the sole users of the forest trees.
  6. But after some time, the British began to regulate and conserve. In 1800, a commissioner was appointed to look into the availability of teak in the Malabar forests. In 1806, the Madras government appointed Capt. Watson as the commissioner of forests for organizing the production of teak and other timber suitable for the building of ships.
  7. In 1855, Lord Dalhousie framed regulations for conservation of forest in the entire country. Teak plantations were raised in the Malabar hills and acacia and eucalyptus in the Niligiri Hills.
  8. In Bombay, the conservator of forest, Gibson, tried to introduce rules prohibiting shifting cultivation and plantation of teak forests. From 1865 to 1894, forest reserves were established to secure material for imperial needs. From the 18th century, scientific forest management systems were employed to regenerate and harvest the forest to make it sustainable. Between 1926 and 1947 afforestation was carried out on a large scale in the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. In the early 1930s, people began showing interest in the conservation of wild life.
  9. Around the same time the Indian rulers of the States also started conservation of habitats to help conserve the birds and mammals. Though all of them were hunters and between them and the British they cleaned at least 5000 tigers if not more. But still these areas of conservation helped save the species from extinction and formed most of the modern National Parks.
  10. The new Forest Policy of 1952 recognized the protective functions of the forest and aimed at maintaining one – third of India’s land area under forest. Certain activities were banned and grazing restricted. Much of the original British policy was kept in place, such as the classification of forest land into two broad types.
  11. The next 50 years saw development and change in people’s thinking regarding the forest. A constructive attitude was brought about through a number of five-year plans. Until 1976, the forest resource was seen as a source of earning money for the state and therefore little was spent in protecting it or looking after it.

Today India’s forests are protected in National Parks like Corbett and Nagarhole or in Sanctuaries like Pakhui and Little Rann of Katch. The modern way of thinking has resulted in Biosphere Reserves and Biodiversity Hotspots and extensive research on them have resulted in rediscovery of new species of mammals like the Leaf Deer in Arunachal Pradesh or the Hook Nosed Frog in Western Ghats.

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