As per the India State of Forest (ISF) 2019 report, the total forest cover of the country is 712,249 square kilometers ( 21.67 percent of India’s total geographical area).
A great variety of forests are found in different parts of India due to unequal distribution of rainfall and temperature as well as their seasonal variation, besides varied edaphic and biotic conditions. A generalized classification of Indian forest is, therefore, a difficult job. But based on the suggestions, given by the scholars, India’s forest can be divided into 5 types and 16 sub-types as per the details given below:
A. Moist Tropical Forests
1. Tropical wet Evergreen
2. Tropical Semi-evergreen
3. Tropical Moist deciduous
4. Littoral and swamp
B. Dry Tropical Forest
5. Tropical Dry evergreen
6. Tropical Dry Deciduous
7. Tropical Thorn
C. Montane Sub-Tropical Forest
8. Sub- Tropical Broad-leaved hill forest
9. Sub -Tropical moist hill(pine)
10. Sub –Tropical dry Evergreen
D. Montane Temperate Forests
11. Montane wet Temperate
12. Himalayan Moist Temperate
13. Himalayan Dry Temperate
E. Alpine Forest
14. Sub- Alpine Forest
15. Moist Alpine forest
16. Dry Alpine Scrub
A. MOIST TROPICAL FORESTS
1. Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests:
These are typical rain forest which grows in those areas where the annual rainfall exceeds 250 cm, the annual temperature is about 25-27 degree Celsius, the average annual humidity exceeds 77% and the dry season is distinctly short. These forests do not shed their leaves annually, at least not together, and are termed as evergreen forests. The trees often reach 45m in height individually, However, they can grow up to 60m. These types of forests are found in the western side of Western Ghats, Arunachal Pradesh, upper Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Andaman, and the Nicobar Islands. The important species of these forests are Mesua, white Kedar, Jamun Muli, etc.
2. Tropical semi-Evergreen Forests:
These forests are mainly found in the bordering area of tropical wet evergreen forests, which are comparatively drier areas of Tropical semi-evergreen forests. Suitable rainfall for such forests is 200-250cm, the mean temperature varies from 24 to 27°C and relative humidity is about 75%. These forests are mainly found on the Western coast, Assam lower slopes of the Eastern Himalayas, Odisha, and Andaman. These forests are less dense from the previous one. The important species are Aini, Semul, Kadam, Kusum, Chestnut, Champa, and Mango.
3. Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests:
These forests are found in areas of moderate rainfall of 100 to 200cm per annum, mean annual temperature of about 27°C, and the annual relative Humidity of 60 to 75 percentage. Such Forest are found in the surrounding belt of evergreen forests, shiwalik range some parts, Chhattisgarh, most of Odisha etc. These forests drop their leaves for about 6-8 weeks during the spring and early summer when sufficient moisture for the leaves is not available. The average height for such forests are 25to 60m. These forests are useful as they produce valuable timber and several other forest products. Some species from these forests are Rosewood, Mahua, Amla, Kusum Tendu, etc. These forests occupy a much larger area than the evergreen forests but the large areas under these forests are cleared for cultivation.
4. Littoral and Swamp forest:
These forests are mainly found around the delta, estuaries, and creeks prone to tidal influences. These forests are mainly confined to deltas of Ganga, the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna River. Important characteristics of these forests are that these forests can survive and grow in both fresh as well as brackish water. The important species found are Sundri, Amur, Bhendi, Keora, Canes, and Palms, etc.
B. DRY TROPICAL FORESTS
5. Tropical dry Evergreen Forests:
These forests are mainly found along the coast of Tamil Nadu which receives rainfall of 100cm mostly from north east Mountain. The chief characteristics of these forest are shorty statured trees, up to 12m high, with complete canopy, bamboo are rare or absent. The important species are Khirni, Kokko, Ritha, Neem, Gamari, and Canes. Most of these forests have been cleared for agriculture or plantation.
6. Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests:
These forests are similar to moist deciduous forests and shed their leaves in the dry season. These forests are mainly transitional type, on the wetter side they give moist deciduous on other drier side they generate into thorn forests. These forests are characterized by a closed and rather uneven canopy. Bamboo is grown but they are not luxuriant. These forests cover large areas and occur mainly wide strip running from north-south from the foot of the Himalayas to Kanyakumari. The main species are Red Sanders, Bel, Lendi, Khair, Papra, etc.
7. Tropical Thorn Forest:
These forests are mainly found in low rainfall areas (less than 75cm), low humidity (less than 50%), and high temperatures (25-30 degrees Celsius). These forests are mainly found in north-western parts of the country mainly Panjab, western Haryana, parts of Saurashtra. Other areas are Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu. The important species are Babul, Khejra, Palas, Dhaman, Cacti, etc.
C. MONTANE SUB-TROPICAL FORESTS
8. Sub-Tropical Broad-leaved Hill Forests:
These forests are mainly found in the eastern Himalayas where the mean annual rainfall is 75cm to 125cm and the average temperature is 18-21 degrees Celsius. Oaks and chestnuts are dominant species. Sals pines, Climbers, epiphyte are common species of these forests. These forests are also seen in some southern parts like Mahabaleshwar, Mt. Abu in the Aravali Range. But most of these forests have been destroyed, reduced, and changed beyond recognition.
9. Sub-tropical Moist Pine Forest:
These forests are mainly at height 1000 to 2000m above sea level in wet hills and western Himalaya. Some parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Naga Hills, and Khasi Hills. Chir or chil are the most dominant trees. It provides valuable timber for furniture and is also used for producing resin and turpentine.
10. Sub-Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests:
This types of forests mainly found in Shiwalik and western Himalayas upto about 1000m above sea level. These forests are practically scrub forests with small evergreen stunted trees and shrubs, including thorny species, herbs, and grasses.
D. MONTANE TEMPERATE FORESTS
11.Montane Wet Temperate Forests:
These varieties of forests grow at a height of 1800to 3000m above sea level in areas where the mean annual rainfall is 150cm to 300cm and the mean annual temperature is about 11-14 degrees Celsius. Mainly in the Higher Hills of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and also north-eastern hills. These are closed evergreen forests. Deodar, Indian chestnut, blue pine, oak are important species.
12. Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests:
These are mainly found in the temperate zone of the Himalayas between 1500 to 3300m where the annual rainfall varies from 150 to 250cm. mainly found in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, etc. These forests are coniferous and mostly pure, 30 to 50m high. It provides fine wood which is of much use for construction, Timber, and railway sleepers.
13. Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests:
Such forests are mainly found in the inner dry range of the Himalayas where the southwest monsoon is not so impacted and mostly covered under snow. Such areas are Ladakh, Lahul, Chamba, and Sikkim. The most important species are Maple, Ash, Celtis, etc.
E. ALPINE FORESTS
These forests are mainly in High altitude areas ranging between 2900 to 3500 above sea level. These forests can be divided into:
These forests occur at the upper limit tree forest adjoin to alpine scrub and grassland. It Is a mixture of coniferous and broad leaves trees in which it attains a height of 30m and broad leaves trees height of about 10m. Fie, kail, source, etc are the main species.
15. Moist alpine Scrub:
It is a low evergreen dense growth of rhododendron, birch which occurs from 3000m and extends from 3000 extends up to the snowline.
16. Dry Alpine Scrub:
It is the uppermost limit of xerophyte dwarf shrubs, over 3500m above sea level, and found in the dry zone. Juniper, honeysuckle, artemesia, etc. are important species.
Apart from the major classification of Indian forests described earlier, the Indian forests may also be classified on basis of statutes, ownership, composition, and exploitability.
1. Legal or Administrative Classification:
This classification has been done to protect the forests against indiscriminate destruction. From the legal point of view, Indian forests have been divided into Reserved, Protected, and unclassed forests. Reserved and protected use for regular supply of timber and other forest produce. It covers 59 % and 29% of the total forest area respectively. The unclassed forests are approximately 17% of the total forest area and are largely degraded, unproductive, and unprofitable forests.
2. Classification Based on ownership:
Most of the forests are owned by the government through different departments such as forest departments. Some of the forest lands are owned by corporate bodies. A negligible proportion of less than 1% is privately owned. Some forest land in Meghalaya, Odisha, Panjab, and Himachal Pradesh is privately owned.
3. Classification according to composition:
Mainly two types of forests are recognized according to composition: coniferous and Broad-leaved. Coniferous forest confined to the Himalayan range. Some species are deodar, chir, pine, spurce etc. On other hand, broad-leaved forest mostly covers 95% of the total forest area. Sal and teak are the most important species and provided valuable timber. The other trees of the broad-leaved forest are bamboo, rosewood, garyan, and benteak.
4. Classification according to Exploitability:
On basis of this forests are classified into 3 types: exploitable, potentially exploitable, and others. About half of the forests are exploitable and one-fourth of the forest is potentially exploitable. A large proportion of Indian forest is inaccessible for effective exploitation and is also termed as non-merchantable. They lie in the high region of the Himalayas in Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh where they cannot be exploited due to lack of transport facilities.
This article is written by;
Selected as Assistant Commandant (UPSC CAPF 2019)
Also appeared for Civil Services Interview
Email: [email protected]