Chapter 5. Natural Vegetation

Types of Forests
• India is a land of great variety of natural vegetation.
• Himalayan heights are marked with temperate vegetation.
• Western Ghats and Andaman Nicobar Islands have tropical rain forests, deltaic regions have tropical forests and mangroves.
• desert and semi-desert areas of Rajasthan are known for cacti, a wide variety of bushes and thorny vegetation.
• 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.

Tropical Evergreen and Semi-Evergreen Forests
• These forests are found in western slope of Western Ghats, hills of northeastern region and 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.
• There is no definite time for trees to shed their leaves, flower & fruition.
• These forests appear green all year round.
• Species found in these forests include rosewood, mahogany, aini, ebony.
• semi-evergreen forests are found in less rainy parts of these regions. Such forests have a mixture of evergreen and moist deciduous trees.
• main species of semi-evergreen forests are white cedar, hollock & kail.
• British were aware of economic value of forests in India, hence, large scale exploitation of these forests was started.

Tropical Deciduous Forests
• These are most widespread forests in India. They are known as monsoon forests. They spread over regions that receive rainfall between 70-200 cm.
• Based on availability of water, these forests are further divided into moist and dry deciduous.
• moist deciduous forests are more pronounced in regions that record rainfall between 100-200 cm.
• These forests are found in northeastern states along foothills of Himalayas, eastern slopes of Western Ghats and Odisha.
• Teak, sal, shisham, hurra, mahua, amla, semul, Kusum, sandalwood. are main tree species of these forests.
• Dry deciduous forest covers vast areas of country, where rainfall ranges between 70 -100 cm.
• These forests are found in rainier areas of Peninsula and plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
• Trees of deciduous forests shed their leaves at beginning of dry seasons.
• Tendu, palas, amaltas, bel, Khair, axlewood. are common trees of these forests.

Montane Forests
• Mountain forests can be classified into two types, northern mountain forests and southern mountain forests.
• Deciduous forests are found in foothills of Himalayas.
• In higher hill ranges of northeastern India, hilly areas of West Bengal and Uttaranchal, evergreen broad leaf trees such as oak and chestnut are predominant.
• Chir pine, deodar, chinar, walnut, blue pine & spruce trees are found in montane forests.
• Silver firs, junipers, pines, birch & rhododendrons. occur between 3, 000-4, 000 m.
• Tribes like Gujjars, Bakarwals, Bhotiyas & Gaddis use these pastures.
• southern slopes of Himalayas carry a thicker vegetation cover because of relatively higher precipitation than drier north-facing slopes.
• At higher altitudes, mosses & lichens form part of tundra vegetation.
• southern mountain forests include forests found in three distinct areas of Peninsular India viz; Western Ghats, Vindhyas & Nilgiris.
• temperate forests are known as Sholas in Nilgiris, Anaimalai & Palani hills.
• Some of other trees of this forest of economic significance include magnolia, laurel, cinchona & wattle.
• Such forests are found in Satpura and Maikal ranges.

Tropical Thorn Forests
• Tropical Thorn Forests are found in areas that receive rainfall less than 50 cm.
• These forests consist of a variety of grasses and shrubs.
• These forests are found in semi-arid areas of southwest Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
• In these forests, plants remain leafless for most of year and give an expression of scrub vegetation.
• Important species found are babool, ber, wild date palm, Khair, neem, khejri, palas. Tussocky grass grows up to a height of 2 m as under growth.

Littoral and Swamp Forests
• India has a rich variety of wetland habitats.
• About 70% of this comprises areas under paddy cultivation. total area of wetland is 3.9 million hectares. Chilika lake, Odisha & keoladeo National Park [Bharatpur, Rajasthan] are protected as water fowl habitat under Ramsar convention.
• country’s wetlands have been grouped into eight categories.
• In India, mangrove forests spread over 6, 740 sq. km which is 7% of world’s mangrove forests. They are highly developed in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Sunderbans of West Bengal.

Forest Cover in India
• According to state records, forest area covers 23.28% of total land area of country. This is important to note that forest area and actual forest cover are not same.
• According to India State of Forest Report 2019, actual forest cover in India is only 21.67%.
• Both forest area and forest cover vary from state to state. Lakshadweep has zero per cent forest area; Andaman and Nicobar Islands have 86.93%.
• Most of forests in Punjab and Haryana have been cleared for cultivation.

Forest Conservation
• Forests provide numerous direct and indirect advantages to economy and society of a country.
• Conservation of forests is of vital importance to survival and prosperity of human kind.
• Government of India has proposed to have a nationwide forest conservation policy and adopted a forest policy in 1952, which was further modified in 1988.
• According to new forest policy, Government will emphasise sustainable forest management to conserve and expand forest reserves on one hand, and to meet needs of local people on other.

Social Forestry
• Social forestry means management and protection of forests and afforestation on barren lands to help in environmental, social & rural development.
• National Commission on Agriculture [1976] has classified social forestry into three categories- Urban forestry, Rural forestry and Farm forestry.
• Urban forestry pertains to raising and management of trees on public and privately owned lands in and around urban centres such as green belts, parks, roadside avenues, industrial and commercial green belts.
• Rural forestry emphasizes promotion of agroforestry and community-forestry.
• Agro-forestry is raising of trees and agricultural crops on same land inclusive of waste patches. It combines forestry with agriculture.
• Community forestry involves raising of trees on public or community land such as village pasture and temple land, roadside, canal bank, strips along railway lines, schools.
• community forestry programme aims at providing benefits to community as a whole.
• Community forestry provides a means under which people of landless classes can associate themselves in tree raising and thus, get those benefits which otherwise are restricted for landowners.

Farm Forestry
• Farm forestry is a term applied to process under which farmers grow trees for commercial and noncommercial purposes on their farmlands.
• Forest departments of various states distribute seedlings of trees free of cost to small and medium farmers.
• Several lands such as margins of agricultural fields, grasslands and pastures, land around homes and cow sheds may be used for raising trees under non-commercial farm forestry.

• wildlife of India is a great natural heritage. This is estimated that about 4-5% of all known plant and animal species on earth are found in India.
• main reason for this remarkable diversity of life forms is great diversity of ecosystem that this country has preserved and supported through ages.
• Over years, their habitat has been disturbed by human activities and as a result, their numbers have dwindled significantly.
• Certain species are on brink of extinction.

Wildlife Conservation in India
• In 1972, a comprehensive Wildlife Act was enacted, which provides main legal framework for conservation and protection of wildlife in India.
• two main objectives of Act are; to provide protection to endangered species listed in schedule of Act and to provide legal support to conservation areas of country classified as National parks, sanctuaries and closed areas.
• This Act has been comprehensively amended in 1991, making punishments more stringent and has made provisions for protection of specified plant species and conservation of endangered species of wild animals.
• There are 101 National parks and 553 wildlife sanctuaries in country.
• Special schemes like Project Tiger [1973] and Project Elephant [1992] have been launched to conserve several species and their habitat in a sustainable manner.
• Some more projects have been launched by government of India to protect wildlife.

Biosphere Reserves
• A Biosphere Reserve is a unique and representative ecosystem of terrestrial and coastal areas which are internationally recognised within framework of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere [MAB] Programme.
• There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India, of those 18 reserves Twelve Biosphere Reserves have been recognised by UNESCO on World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
• Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve [NBR], first of fourteen biosphere reserves of India, was established in September 1986. It includes largest known population of two endangered animal species, namely Nilgiri Tahr and Lion-tailed macaque.
• Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve situated in Uttarakhand includes parts of Chamoli, Almora, Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts.
• biosphere reserve has rich fauna, for example, snow leopard, black bear, brown bear, musk deer, snow-cock, golden eagle and black eagle.
• Sunderbans Biosphere Reserve is located in swampy deltas of river Ganga in West Bengal. It extends over a vast area of 9, 630 sq. km and consists of mangrove forests, swamps & forested islands. Sunderbans is home of nearly 200 Royal Bengal tigers.
• Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve covers an area of 105, 000 hectares on southeast coast of India. This is one of world’s richest regions from a marine biodiversity perspective.

Name of Biosphere Reserve
(1) Nilgiri [5520] 01.08.1986 Part of Wynad, Nagarhole, Bandipur & Madumalai, Nilambur, Silent Valley and Siruvani Hills [Tamil Nadu, Kerala & Karnataka].
(2) Nanda Devi [5860.69] 18.01.1988 Part of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Almora Districts in Uttarakhand.
(3) Nokrek [820] 01.09.1988 Part of East, West & South Garo Hill Districts in Meghalaya.
(4) Manas [2837] 14.03.1989 Part of Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup & Darang Districts in Assam.
(5) Sunderban [9630] 29.03.1989 Part of delta of ganges and Brahmaputra river system in West Bengal.
(6) Gulf of Mannar [10500] 18.02.1989 Indian part of Gulf of Mannar extending from Rameshwaram island in North of Kaniyakumari in South of Tamil Nadu.
(7) Great Nicobar [885] 06.01.1989 Southern most island of Andaman and Nicobar islands.
(8) Similipal [4374] 21.06.1994 Part of Mayurbhanj District in Odisha.
(9) Dibru-Saikhowa [765] 28.07.1997 Part of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts in Assam
(10) Deand Deband [5111.5] 02.09.1998 Part of Uppaer Siang. West Siang and Dibang Valley Districts in Arunachal Pradesh.
(11) Pachmarhi [4981.72] 03.03.1999 Part of Betul, Hoshangabad and Chhindwara Districts in Madhya Pradesh.
(12) Khangchendzonga [2619.92] 07.02.2000 Part of North and West Districts in Sikkim.
(13) Agasthyamalai [3500.36] 12.11.2001 Part of Thirunelveli and Kanyakumari Districts in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam & Pathanmtitta districts in Kerala.
(14) Achanakmar-Amarkantak [3835.51] 30.03.2005 Part of Anuppur and Dindori Districts of Madhya Pradesh and Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh.
(15) Kachchh [12,454] 29.01.2008 Part of Kachchh, Rajkot, Surendranagar and Patan Districts in Gujarat.
(16) Cold Desert [7770] 28.08.2009 Pin Valey National Part and surroundings: Chandratal and Sarchu and Kibber Wildlife sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh.
(17) Seshachalam [4755.997] 20.09.2010 Seshachalam hill ranges in Eastern Ghats encompassing part of Chittoor and Kadapa Districts in Andhra Pradesh.
(18) Panna [2998.98] 28.08.2011 Part of Pann and Chhattarpur Districts in Madhya Pradesh.

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