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Natural Vegetation and Forest Types in India

N.K. Chauhan in Geography of India
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May 02, 2021 , Updated: May 05, 2022 · 7 min read

According to "Forest Survey report 2021", total forest and tree cover of the country is 80.9 million hectare which is 24.62 percent of the geographical area of the country.

The Tree cover is 2.91% of the geographical area of the country.

As compared to ISFR 2019 the current assessment shows an increase of 0.28% of forest and tree cover put together, at the national level.

Area-wise Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.

The percentage of dense forest in India is 12.37 % (very dense-3.04% and medium dense-9.33).

Arunachal Pradesh has maximum very dense forests followed by Maharashtra and Odisha.

In terms of forest cover as percentage of total geographical area, the top three States are Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya.

Top three states showing increase in forest cover are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Odisha.

Haryana has the lowest forest cover with respect to total geographical area in India at 6.79 percent.

17 states/UT’s have above 33 percent of the geographical area under forest cover.

National Forest Policy 1952 classified forests functionally into four categories: Protection forests, National forests, Village forests & Treelands.

Manipur has the maximum number of tribal districts as per the India State of Forest Report 2019.

Largest mangrove covered State/UT are: West Bengal, Gujarat, Andaman & Nicobar and Andhra Pradesh.

Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Odisha, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

As per the National Forest Policy 1988, the national goal should be to have a minimum of one-third (33%) of the total land area of the country under forest or tree cover.

The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 (FCA, 1980) was enacted in order to control the ongoing deforestation.

It came into force on October 25, 1980 containing five sections.

On the basis of certain common features, the natural vegetation of India can be divided into 5 main types and 16 sub-types as given below.

Forest Types in India
Moist Tropical Forests
# Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests (Rain Forests) Western Ghats, Purvanchal hill (Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram), Andaman and Nicobar 250 cm rainfall, 24°-27°C, 45-60 m height, thick canopy, high humidity mahogany, ebony, rosewood, mesua, white cedar, jamun, canes

bamboos, ferns, climbers, orchids
# Tropical Semi-Evergreen Western coast, Assam, lower eastern Himalayas, Odisha and Andamans 200-250 cm rainfall, 24°-27°C, high humidity (>70 percent) laurel, rosewood, mesua, thorny bamboo, white cedar, Indian chestnut, champa, mango
# Tropical Moist Deciduous Western Ghats, Shiwalik, Manipur and Mizoram,eastern MP and Chhattisgarh, Chota Nagpur Plateau, Odisha, West Bengal and Andamans 100-200 cm rainfall, 27°C, high humidity, summer are dry

drop their leaves
teak, sal, shisham, laurel, rosewood, sandalwood, amla, jamun, bamboo
# Littoral and Swamp in and around the deltas, estuaries and creeks Sundri, agar, rhizophora, screw pines, canes and palms
Dry Tropical Forests
# Tropical Dry Evergreen coasts of Tamil Nadu 100 cm rainfall, 28°C, high humidity, short statured trees, up to 12 m high jamun, tamarind, neem
# Tropical Dry Deciduous irregular wide strip except in Rajasthan 100-150 cm rainfall, uneven canopy, growth of grass and climbers, shed leaves teak, axlewood, rosewood, common bamboo, red sanders, laurel, satinwood
# Tropical Thorn Forests Rajasthan, south-western Punjab, western Haryana, Kutch and parts of Saurashtra

Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu
< 75 cm rainfall, 25°-30°C, less humidity (< 50 percent), 6-10 m high, widely scattered babool, ber, and wild date palm, khair, neem, khejri, palas
Montane Sub-Tropical Forests
# Sub-tropical broad-leaved Hill Forests Eastern Himalayas (1000 to 2000 m) and in the Nilgiri and Palni hills at 1070-1525 m, Western Ghats, Satpura and the Maikal Range, Aravali 75-125 cm rainfall, 18-21°C, high humidity (80 percent) oaks, chestnuts, ash, beech, sals and pines
# Sub-tropical Moist Pine Forests Western Himalayas (1000 to 2000 m), Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Naga Hills and Khasi Hills (Meghalaya) Chir or Chil
# Sub-tropical Dry Evergreen Forests Shiwaliks and the western Himalayas up to about 1000 metres 50-100 cm rainfall, low scrub forest with small evergreen stunted trees Olive, acacia modesta and pistacia
Montane Temperate Forests
# Montane Wet Temperate Forests Tamil Nadu and Kerala and in the Eastern Himalayan, 1800 to 3000 m 150 cm to 300 cm rainfall, 11°C to 14°C and high humidity over 80 per cent, height < 6 metres, large girth Deodar, Chilauni, Indian chestnut, birch, plum, machilus, cinnamomum, litsea, magnolia, blue pine, oak, hemlock
# Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests Himalayas (1500 and 3300 metres) - Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Darjeeling and Sikkim 150 cm to 250 cm rainfall, coniferous, 30 to 50 m high, shrubby undergrowth Pines, cedars, silver firs, spruce
# Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests Ladakh, Lahul, Chamba, Kinnaur, Garhwal and Sikkim below 100 cm rainfall and is mostly in the form of snow deodar, oak, ash, olive
Alpine Forests
# Sub-alpine Kashmir, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh between 2900 to 3500 metres juniper, rhododendron, willow, red fir, birch, and larch
# Moist alpine scrub > 3,000 metres low evergreen dense rhododendron, birch, mosses and ferns cover the ground
# Dry alpine scrub U.P., Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Kashmir Artemisia, Potentilla, Kochia, Juniperus

Ecological Classification of Plants

The five ecological plants groups are: (1) Hydrophytes (2) Hygrophytes (3) Mesophytes (4) Xerophytes and (5) Halophytes.

Type Description
Hydrophytes a plant which grows only in or on water.
Hygrophytes a plant which grows in wet conditions.
Mesophytes a plant needing only a moderate amount
of water.
Xerophytes a species of plant that has adaptations to
survive in an environment with little
liquid water
Halophytes salt-tolerant plants that grow in waters
with high salinity
Tropophytes heavy rainfall alternates with periods of
Cryophytes An organism that can live in ice and snow
Lithophytes a plant that grows on bare rock or stone.
Pyrophytes plants which have adapted to tolerate fire

Chipko movement (chipko andolan)

The Chipko movement or chipko andolan, was a forest conservation movement in India.

The movement originated in 1973 at the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand (then part of Uttar Pradesh) and went on to become a rallying point for many future environmental movements all over the world.

It created a precedent for starting nonviolent protest in India.

However, it was Sunderlal Bahuguna, a Gandhian activist, who gave the movement a proper direction.

He used the slogan "Ecology is the permanent economy".

Both male and female activists from Uttarakhand played vital roles, including Gaura Devi, Suraksha Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi and Chandi Bhatt, Virushka Devi and others.

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