Different types of forests
India has a diverse range of forests: from
the rainforest of Kerala in the south to the alpine pastures of Ladakh in the north, from
the deserts of Rajasthan in the west to the evergreen forests in the north-east. Climate,
soil type, topography, and elevation are the main factors that determine the type of
forest. Forests are classified according to their nature and composition, the type of
climate in which they thrive, and its relationship with the surrounding environment.
Forests can be divided into six broad
types, with a number of sub types.
Wet evergreen forests are found in the south along the Western Ghats and the Nicobar and
Andaman Islands and all along the north-eastern region. It is characterized by tall,
straight evergreen trees that have a buttressed trunk or root on three sides like a tripod
that helps to keep a tree upright during a storm. These trees often rise to a great height
before they open out like a cauliflower. The more common trees that are found here are the
jackfruit, betel nut palm, jamun, mango, and hollock. The trees in this forest form a tier
pattern: shrubs cover the layer closer to the ground, followed by the short structured
trees and then the tall variety. Beautiful fern of various colours and different varieties
of orchids grow on the trunks of the trees.
Semi-evergreen forests are found in the Western Ghats, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and
the Eastern Himalayas. Such forests have a mixture of the wet evergreen trees and the
moist deciduous tress. The forest is dense and is filled with a large variety of trees of
Moist deciduous forests are found throughout India except in the western and the
north-western regions. The trees have broad trunks, are tall and have branching trunks and
roots to hold them firmly to the ground. Some of the taller trees shed their leaves in the
dry season. There is a layer of shorter trees and evergreen shrubs in the undergrowth.
These forests are dominated by sal and teak, along with mango, bamboo, and rosewood.
Littoral and swamp
Littoral and swamp forests are found along the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the delta
area of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. It consists mainly of whistling pines, mangrove
dates, palms, and bulletwood. They have roots that consist of soft tissue so that the
plant can breathe in the water.
Dry deciduous forest
Dry deciduous forests are found throughout the northern part of the country except in the
North-East. It is also found in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and
Tamil Nadu. The canopy of the trees does not normally exceed 25 metres. The common trees
are the sal, a variety of acacia, and bamboo.
This type is found in areas with black soil: North, West, Central, and South India. The
trees do not grow beyond 10 metres. Spurge, caper, and cactus are typical of this region.
Dry evergreens are found along the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka coast. It has mainly
hard-leaved evergreen trees with fragrant flowers, along with a few deciduous trees.
sub tropical forests
Broad-leaved forests are found in the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, along the
Silent Valley. There is a marked difference in the form of the vegetation in the two
areas. In the Silent Valley, the poonspar, cinnamon, rhododendron, and fragrant grass are
predominant. In the Eastern Himalayas, the flora has been badly affected by the shifting
cultivation and forest fires. These wet forests consist mainly of evergreen trees with a
sprinkling of deciduous here and there. There are oak, alder, chestnut, birch, and cherry
trees. There are a large variety of orchids, bamboo and creepers.
Pine forests are found in the steep dry slopes of the Shivalik Hills, Western and Central
Himalayas, Khasi, Naga, and Manipur Hills. The trees predominantly found in these areas
are the chir, oak, rhododendron, and pine. In the lower regions sal, sandan, amla, and
laburnum are found.
Dry evergreen forests normally have a prolonged hot and dry season and a cold winter. It
generally has evergreen trees with shining leaves that have a varnished look. Some of the
more common ones are the pomegranate, olive, and oleander. These forests are found in the
Shivalik Hills and foothills of the Himalayas up to a height of 1000 metres.
Wet montane temperate forests occur in the North and the South. In the North, it is found
in the region to the east of Nepal into Arunachal Pradesh, at a height of 18003000
metres, receiving a minimum rainfall of 2000 mm. In the South, it is found in parts of the
Niligiri Hills, the higher reaches of Kerala. The forests in the northern region are
denser than in the South. This is because over time the original trees have been replaced
by fast-growing varieties such as the eucalyptus. Rhododendrons and a variety of ground
flora can be found here.
In the North, there are three layers of
forests: the higher layer has mainly coniferous, the middle layer has deciduous trees such
as the oak and the lowest layer is covered by rhododendron and champa.
This type spreads from the Western Himalayas to the Eastern Himalayas. The trees found in
the western section are broad-leaved oak, brown oak, walnut, rhododendron, etc. In the
Eastern Himalayas, the rainfall is much heavier and therefore the vegetation is also more
lush and dense. There are a large variety of broad-leaved trees, ferns, and bamboo.
Coniferous trees are also found here, some of the varieties being different from the ones
found in the South.
This type is found mainly in Lahul, Kinnaur, Sikkim, and other parts of the Himalayas.
There are predominantly coniferous trees that are not too tall, along with broad-leaved
trees such as the oak, maple, and ash. At higher elevation, fir, juniper, deodar, and
chilgoza can be found.
Sub alpine forests extends from Kashmir to
Arunachal Pradesh between 2900 to 3500 metres. In the Western Himalayas, the vegetation
consists mainly of juniper, rhododendron, willow, and black currant. In the eastern parts,
red fir, black juniper, birch, and larch are the common trees. Due to heavy rainfall and
high humidity the timberline in this part is higher than that in the West. Rhododendron of
many species covers the hills in these parts.
Moist alpines are found all along the Himalayas and on the higher hills near the Myanmar
border. It has a low scrub, dense evergreen forest, consisting mainly of rhododendron and
birch. Mosses and ferns cover the ground in patches. This region receives heavy snowfall.
Dry alpines are found from about 3000 metres to about 4900 metres. Dwarf plants
predominate, mainly the black juniper, the drooping juniper, honeysuckle, and willow.
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