The land dominated by trees, plants, shrubs, bushes, etc. incorporating factors such as tree density, tree height, land use, legal standing and ecological function, is said to be forest area.
We depend on forests directly or indirectly.
Forest Cover: Forest Cover refers to all lands more than one hectare in area, with a tree canopy density of more than 10% irrespective of ownership and legal status. Such lands may not necessarily be a recorded forest area. It also includes orchards, bamboo and palm.
- The total forest cover of the country is 21.67% of the total geographic area of the country.
- The total Forest and Tree cover of the country is 24.56% of the geographical area of the country. In the last assessment it was 24.39%.
- There is an increase of 0.56% of forest cover, 1.29% of tree cover and 0.65% of forest and tree cover put together, at the national level as compared to the previous assessment i.e. ISFR 2017.
Recorded Forest Area (RFA): It refers to all the geographic areas recorded as ‘Forests’ in government records. It consists of Reserved Forests and Protected Forests which have been constituted under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
Green Wash: The extent of wooded areas generally shown in light green colour on the Survey of India topological sheets.
Tree Cover: Tree patches outside recorded forest areas exclusive of forest cover and less than the minimum mappable area of one hectare.
• The tree cover of the country is estimated as 2.89% of the geographical area.
Carbon Stock: Forest carbon stock is the amount of carbon that has been sequestered from the atmosphere and is now stored within the forest ecosystem, mainly within living biomass and soil, and to a lesser extent also in dead wood and litter.
Open Forest (OF): Lands with forest cover having a canopy density between 10 to 40 percent.
Dense Forest: All lands with a forest cover having a canopy density of 40% and above.
1. Moderately Dense Forest (MDF): All lands with forest cover having a canopy density between 40 – 70%
2. Very Dense Forest (VDF): Lands with forest cover having a canopy density of 70% and above.
Source: (INDIA STATE FORESTS REPORT 2019)
Importance of Forests
The food we eat, the air we breathe, the paper and wood we use; we depend on forest directly or indirectly. Without forests, most of the areas would have been deserts:
• Forests keep up the natural balance.
• Forests purify the air
• Forests provide micro-climate
• Forests indirectly play a role in precipitation
• Forests prevent floods
• Forests prevent soil erosion
• Forests provide medicinal properties
• Forests provide us fuel and timber
• Forests provide raw materials for industries
Direct uses of forest products
- Fruits – mango, jamun, awla
- Roots – Dioscoria
- Medicine – Gloriosa, Foxglove
- Fuelwood – many species of trees and shrubs
- Small timber for building huts and houses
- Wood for farm implements
- Bamboo and cane for baskets
- Grass for grazing and stall feeding livestock
Indirect uses of forest products
- The building material for construction and furniture for the urban sector
- Medicinal products collected and processed into drugs
- Gums and resins processed into a variety of products
- The raw material for industrial products and chemicals
- Paper from bamboo and softwoods
- Reduce the rate of surface run-off of water.
- Prevent flash floods and soil erosion.
- Produces prolonged gradual run-off and thus prevents the effect of drought.
- Absorption of solar heat during evapo-transpiration.
- Maintaining carbon dioxide levels for plant growth.
- Maintaining the local climatic conditions.
- Holding soil (by preventing rain from directly washing soil away).
- Maintenance of soil nutrients and structure.
Local use – Consumption of forest produce by local people who collect it for subsistence – (Consumptive use)
- Food – gathering plants, fishing, hunting from the forest. (In the past when wildlife was plentiful, people could hunt and kill animals for food. Now that populations of most wildlife species have diminished, continued hunting would lead to extinction.)
- Fodder – for cattle.
- Fuel wood and charcoal for cooking, heating.
- Poles – building homes especially in rural and wilderness areas.
- Timber – household articles and construction.
- Fiber – weaving of baskets, ropes, nets, string, etc.
- Sericulture – for silk.
- Apiculture – bees for honey, forest bees also pollinate crops.
- Medicinal plants – traditionally used medicines, investigating them as potential source for new modern drugs.
Market use – (Productive use)
- Most of the above products used for consumptive purposes are also sold as a source of income for supporting the livelihoods of forest-dwelling people.
- Minor forest produce – (non-wood products): Fuelwood, fruit, gum, fiber, etc. which are collected and sold in local markets as a source of income for forest dwellers.
- Major timber extraction – construction, industrial uses, paper pulp, etc. Timber extraction is done in India by the Forest Department, but illegal logging continues in many of the forests of India and the world.
Utility of Trees
- Trees for Beauty: These trees are also known as ornamental trees. Generally, they look beautiful and attractive in all conditions of their growth and development.
- Trees for Food: Some of the trees provide food. They provide nutritious food to all, both human beings and animals.
- Trees for Fuel: It is needed for people who are dependent on forest trees for cooking of their meals and other warming.
- Trees for Honey: Honey is one of the best sweetening agents that also has medicinal value. It provides refreshing drink, nutritive supplement, etc.
- Trees for Packing Material: Wood is needed for the manufacture of packing cases, plywood, hardboard, match industry, paper industry etc.
- Trees for Timber: Timber required for most of the household, commercial and industrial uses.
- Trees for Oils: This includes oils meant for industrial uses, domestic uses for cooking and burning.
- Trees for Fodder: Foliage of the trees can be used for feeding cattle and other animals.
- Trees for Shade: Apart from serving the purpose of a common tree, some trees provide sufficient amount of shade and shelter from hot sun and rain to some extent.
- Trees for Medicinal Uses: Some of tree species yield medicines of vital importance for the mankind and others. Roots, stems, leaves, buds, flowers, seeds and bark are used for preparing many medicines.
5 Types of Forests
Classification of Forest in India
Indian forests perform an important role to make a healthy environment and it reduce air pollutions. Near about 19.26% of total Indian areas are covered with forest. These forests can be classified in five major groups namely:
1. Moist Tropical Forests
- Rain Forests or Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests
- Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forests
- Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests
- Littoral and Swamp Forests
2. Dry Tropical Forests
- Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests
- Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests
- Tropical Thorn Forests
3. Montane Sub-Tropical Forests
- Sub-tropical Broad-leaved Hill Forests
- Sub-tropical Moist Pine Forests
- Sub-tropical Dry Evergreen Forests
4. Montane Temperate Forests
- Montane Wet Temperate Forests
- Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests
- Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests
5. Alpine Forests
Moist Tropical Forest
Where the amount of annual rainfall ranges between 200 and 250 cm, the mean annual temperature lies between 24 and 27 and humidity percentage is 80, the evergreen forests degenerate into semi evergreen forests; such forests are found along the Western Coast, in Upper Assam, lower slopes of the eastern Himalaya, Orissa coast and neighbouring hills.
Important plant varieties include bamboos, epiphytes, aini, semul, gutel, mundane, hopea, benteak, kadam irul, rosewood, haldu, kanju, bijasal, kusum, bomsum, Indian chestnut, litsea, holloch, champa and mesua, etc.
Dry Tropical Forest
This types of forests mainly found in Indian Northern Hilly regions and some states of Southern India. Basically, these forests are generated where average annual rainfall ranges varies from 51 cm to 151. Trees of these forests drop its leaves in winter (when the weather remains driest) and new leaves are generated after winter. During rainy season these types of forest completely decorate lush green leaves.
Some significant trees of dry tropical forest are sal, acacia, mangoes and bamboo.
Montane Temperate Forest
These types of forests are mainly generated in Northern middle Himalayas ranges (1801 to 3001 m) and Southern Niligiri higher Mountain ranges. It takes about 201 cm average annual rainfalls to produce these types of forests.
Some significant trees of montane temperate forest are rhododendrons, ferns, oak, maple, juniper, deodar, chilgoza, etc.
Montane Subtropical Forest
These types of forests mainly generated in the state of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, etc. mountain ranges of Western Ghats are also the abode of these types’ forests.
Some significant trees of montane sub tropical forest are poonspar, cinnamon, rhododendron, sal, sandan, laburnum, pomegranate, olive, oleander, etc.
These grasslands start at an elevation of above 3000 m grow up to the region just below the snowline. They are common in both the main Himalayan regions as well as the barren cold deserts of the Tran Himalaya. Low alpine grasslands are common with the vegetation not growing higher than 1.5m.
Climatic conditions vary from the sub-arctic to arctic, with snow covering the ground for over 5 months a year. The growing season for the plants is thus stunted. Pastures are grazed by migratory cattle in summer.
The vegetation/trees consist mainly of the black juniper, the drooping juniper; honeysuckle and willow are the common trees.
Tropical Forest Alliance 2020
The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 was founded in 2012 at Rio+20.
- It is a global public-private partnership dedicated to collaborative action to realize sustainable rural development and better growth opportunities based on reduced deforestation and sustainable land use management in tropical forest countries.
- It aims to halve deforestation by 2020 and end it by 2030.
- TFA is funded by the governments of Norway, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and its secretariat is hosted at the World Economic Forum.
- Its action area for 2019 include 10 priority actions to reduce tropical deforestation from global agricultural supply chains (for e.g. beef, soy and palm oil production), as defined in the Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020 of World Economic Forum.
- The Sundarbans mangrove forest, one of the largest such forests in the world (140,000 ha), lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers on the Bay of Bengal.
- Sundarban is World Heritage site inscribed in 1987.
- In, 2019 the Indian side of Sunderbans ‘Wetlands of International Importance’ tag under the Ramsar convention.