• A forest is a complicated ecosystem made up mostly of trees, bushes, and, in most cases, a closed canopy. They store many different kinds of plants and animals. They also have a lot of bacteria and fungi, which are important for the decomposition cycle and make the soil richer.
About 30% of all the land on Earth is covered by woods. The number means that about 4 billion hectares of land are covered by trees.
The word “forest” can also mean the natural greenery of an area that has been there for thousands of years and is home to many different species. In the end, this creates a very complicated environment.
Forests are important for the earth, the climate, animals, and people, too. They offer a range of natural goods and services. In addition, they play a very important part in keeping the environment in balance and also help the economy.
• India has many different kinds of forests, from the rainforest of Kerala in the south to the alpine meadows of Ladakh in the north, from the deserts of Rajasthan in the west to the evergreen forests in the north-east.
• The major things that determine the type of forest are the climate, soil type, topography, and elevation.
• The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 says that trees and forests cover 24.62 percent of the country’s land area.
Table of Contents
What is a Forest?
• There is no clear, nationally accepted meaning of “forest” in India right now.
• It is up to the states to decide what they mean by “forests.”
• The T.N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs. the Union of India judgement from 1996 says that it is up to the states to decide what woods are.
In the ruling, the Supreme Court said that the word “forest” should be taken as it is in the language.
This term applies to all legally recognised forests, whether they are set aside, protected, or something else.
Articles of the Constitution
• The Constitution of India’s (Seventh Schedule) Concurrent List includes forests.
• Forests and the protection of wild animals and birds were moved from the State List to the Concurrent List by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976.
Article 51A(g) of the Constitution says that protecting and improving the natural environment, including forests and wildlife, is a basic duty of every citizen. Article 48A of the Directive Principles of State Policy says that the government must try to protect and improve the environment and keep the country’s forests and wildlife safe.
The National Forest Policy of 1988 is the law that controls India’s forests. Its main goals are to keep the environment in order and help people make a living.
Report on Forestry:
• The India State of Forest Report, 2021, said that trees and forests covered 24.62 percent of India’s land.
Forests cover a total of 7,13,789 square kilometres, or 21.71 percent of the country’s land area.
Trees cover 2.91 percent of the land area of the country.
• Compared to the ISFR 2019, the latest assessment shows that the national level forest and tree cover has grown by 0.28 percent.
Forest Cover: 0.22%
Tree Cover: 0.76 percent
India has many kinds of forests.
Based on how much rain falls on average each year,
Based on how much rain falls on average each year, India’s forests can be roughly put into five groups:
1. Tropical and semi-tropical evergreen forests
2. Tropical Forests with Leaves That Fall Off (Monsoon Forests)
3. Thorny forests in the tropics
4. Montane Forests
5. Forests on the coast and in swamps
Tropical Evergreen Forests
The word “tropical” means “from the tropics,” and “evergreen” means that the leaves stay green all year.
• You can find them on the west side of the Western Ghats, in the hills of the Northeast, and on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
• In India, the tropical wet evergreen forest is usually found in places that get more than 200 cm of rain a year and have temperatures between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius.
• They cover about 7% of the surface of the earth.
• Most of them live near the equator.
• They have scant undergrowth with clearings here and there
• There isn’t much litter (dead organic matter that falls to the ground). • These woods are dense and have many layers. In these woods, the trees are thick, tall, and very green. They are home to many different kinds of plants and animals.
• Moist evergreen forests: found in the north-eastern part of India, along the Western Ghats, on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in the southern part of India near the Western Ghats.
Climate: They live in warm, muggy places where it rains more than 200 cm per year and where the average temperature is above 22°C.
Trees: The tallest trees in these forests are at least 60 metres tall.
o Trees don’t have a set time when they lose their leaves, bloom, or bear fruit, so these woods look green all year long.
o Rosewood, Mahogany, Aini, Ebony, and other types of trees can be found in these woods.
o Jackfruit, betel nut palm, jamun, mango, and hollock are some of the most popular trees here.
• Semi-evergreen forests are found in the less wet parts of the Western Ghats, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Eastern Himalayas, which are all places with moist evergreen forests.
Trees: These woods have both evergreen trees and trees that lose their leaves in the autumn.
o The evergreen look of these woods comes from the climbers that grow on the ground.
o White cedar, hollock, and kail are the most common types.
• Dry evergreen:
Location: Found in the Shivalik Hills and the foothills of the Himalayas up to a height of 1000 metres in the north.
o Found on the southern coasts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
The weather is usually hot and dry for a long time and cold in the winter.
Trees: There are mostly evergreen trees with hard leaves and sweet flowers, as well as a few trees that lose their leaves in the autumn.
o Trees look like they’ve been painted.
o The pomegranate, olive, and oleander are some of the more popular ones.
Tropical Deciduous Forests (Monsoon Forests)
• Tropical means “Tropical Region,” and “deciduous” means “plants and trees that lose their leaves every year.”
They are found in both tropical and subtropical areas. They are also called “monsoon forests.” During the rains, the leaves come back and fall off in the summer.
• These trees grow in places that get between 70 and 200 cm of rain a year.
• Based on how much water is available, a tropical deciduous forest can be split into:
Forests with dry leaves
• Moist Deciduous Forests: Moist means ‘moisture’.
Region: These woods are in the north-eastern states along the foothills of the Himalayas, the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, and Odisha.
Rainfall: Found in places that get between 100 and 200 cm of rain a year.
Trees: Trees with wide, branched stems that are very tall.
o During the dry season, some of the bigger trees lose their leaves.
o The main plants in these woods are teak, sal, shisham, hurra, mahua, amla, semul, kusum, sandalwood, etc.
• Dry, evergreen forests:
Dry means the area gets less rain (70 to 100 cm less) than Moist deciduous woods.
Location: Found everywhere in the north of the country except the north-east.
o Also found in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.
Rainfall: In large parts of the country, the amount of rain falls between 70 and 100 cm.
o On the wetter edges, it changes into moist deciduous forests, and on the dry edges, it changes into thorn forests.
Trees: When the dry season starts, all the leaves fall off the trees, making the forest look like a big field with bare trees all around.
Most of the trees in these woods are Tendu, Palas, Amaltas, Bel, Khair, Axlewood, etc.
At ground level, there is a lot of grass and trees that grow up.
They have to deal with overgrazing, forest fires, and a lot of clearing because of farming.
Tropical forests with thorns
• “Tropical” means “area in the tropics,” and “thorn” means “a sharp, pointed piece of wood.”
It grows in places that get less than 50 cm of rain a year (semi-arid regions) and has a thick, scrub-like appearance.
• Most of the year, trees don’t have leaves, and water is saved in their stems.
• There are a lot of tufts of grass in this bush. They can grow to be 2m tall.
• Rainfall: Forests grow in places where it rains less than 50cm per year.
• Regions: This type is found in the north, west, centre, and south of India, where the dirt is dark.
Includes semi-arid parts of south-west Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh.
• Trees: The trees don’t get taller than 10 feet and are mostly grasses and shrubs. In this area, you can often find spurge, caper, and cactus.
Most of the year, the plants don’t have leaves.
Common species in the woods include Babul, Acacia, Kokko, Khair, Khajuri, Ber, Neem, Khejri, Palas, etc.
• Montane means ‘mountainous region’.
• As you go up in altitude in a hilly area, the temperature drops.
• India has mountains in the north, east, and south. The Himalayan mountains start in Jammu and Kashmir and go all the way to Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.
South India: the Western Ghats, the Vindhya range, and the Nilgiris.
• Wet temperate mountain forests:
It lives in the northern and southern parts of India. In the north, it grows in the area east of Nepal and into Arunachal Pradesh, which is between 1800 and 3000 metres high and gets at least 200 cm of rain a year.
o In the south, it lives in parts of the Nilgiri Hills and Kerala’s higher regions.
Trees: There are more trees in the northern woods than in the southern ones.
o This is because, over time, fast-growing plants like eucalyptus have taken the place of the original trees.
Rhododendrons, Champa, and many other types of ground plants grow here.
• Montane subtropical forests are found in places where it rains 100–200 cm on average and the temperature ranges from 15°C to 22°C.
Location: In the northwestern Himalayas, except for Ladakh and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
Trees: Chir (Pine) is the most common tree, but you can also find Oak, Jamun, and Rhododendron in these woods.
• Himalayan Forests: These are found in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and the northern hilly parts of Bengal. • Himalayan Moist Forests: These are found in the Himalayas.
o Altitude: They live in the belt where the altitude ranges from 1000 to 2000 m.
o Oak, chestnut, chir, sal, shrubs, and plants that are good for you.
Himalayan Dry Temperate: o Region: J&K, Chamba, Lahaul & Kinnaur districts (Himachal Pradesh) and Sikkim.
o Trees: Mostly conifers like deodar, oak, chilgoza, maple, olive, mulberry, and willow.
• Forests in the mountains:
Elevation: At 2,500-4,000 m, there is a change from lowland woods to Alpine forests and pastures in the higher parts.
o Subalpine woods are found between 2900 and 3500 metres from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.
Trees: Juniper, rhododendron, willow, and black currant are the main types of plants in the Western Himalayas.
o Common plants in the east are red fir, black juniper, birch, and larch.
Littoral and Swamp Forests
• Wetlands are what Littoral and Swamp mean.
• Wetlands can be found in India in the Himalayas, the desert, the coastal plains, and the areas near rivers.
• There is a pact between governments called the “Ramsar Convention” that helps protect wetlands and make sure they can be used in a sustainable way.
• Location: They live in the Sunderban delta, the eastern coastal plains of the rivers Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, and Mahanadi, the deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, Kashmir and Ladakh, the Andaman and Nicobar islands, the Lakshadweep islands, and the western coastal plains from the Malabar coast to the Konkan coast.
• Trees: Some of these woods are full of trees and are hard to get through. These woods with trees that always stay green only have a small number of plants.
Their roots are made of soft flesh, which lets the plant breathe in the water.
It is mostly made up of bulletwood, mangrove dates, palms, and whistling pines.
• Mangroves in India: There are 6,740 square kilometres of mangrove forests in India, which is 7% of all the mangrove forests in the world.
The woods keep the shoreline stable and stop erosion along the coast.
The Sunderbans is the biggest tidal forest in the world. It is in the Ganges delta.