Natural vegetation and animal life depend on climate, relief and soil. The diversity of India’s climate and relief have made natural vegetation and animal life interdependent on each other and they form a single ecosystem. This ecosystem has evolved through thousands of years. Indiscriminate meddling with this ecosystem causes harmful effects. Natural vegetation and animal life are also called flora and fauna respectively.
India has a wide variety of natural vegetation ranging from tropical evergreen forests to desert vegetation. The natural vegetation of India can be divided into six main types. They are : -
1) Tropical evergreen forests,
2) Tropical deciduous forests or Monsoon forests,
3)Tropical thorn and shrub forests,
4) Desert vegetation,
5) Mangrove forests and
1) Tropical evergreen forests: This type of vegetation is found in areas where rainfall is above 250 cms and temperature ranges between 250C and 270C. Since the trees are always green they are called evergreen forests. The heavy rainfall, high temperature and humidity are responsible for the growth of these dense forests. The trees grow about 60 mts. high. The branches of trees form a canopy and prevent the sun's rays from reaching the ground. In India, most of these forests are found on the western side of the Western Ghats,in the North-Eastern hills and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The semievergreen forests are found in the lower rainfall areas of the Western Ghats, Orissa and West Bengal. Ebony, mahogany, rose-wood and rubber are the important trees. Bamboo bushes are also found.
2) Tropical deciduous forests: These forests are also called monsoon forests. They
cover a greater part of India. They are found in regions where the rainfall is between 75cms. and 250 cms. These forests are found on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, Jammu, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand. In these forests, the trees are fewer and shorter. Bamboos and canes are also grown here. The trees shed their leaves at the beginning of summer. The important trees of these forests are teak, sal and sandal-wood. They have great commercial value. The deciduous forests of Karnataka have sandal-wood trees. Wherever these forests are cut down or burnt, bushes and grass have taken their place.
3) Tropical thorn and shrub forests: These forests are found in the central parts of the Deccan Plateau, southern parts of Maharashtra, Bellary of Karnataka, Cuddapha and Kurnool of Andhra Pradesh, where the annual rainfall is between 60 and 75 cms. These forests have short stemmed trees like Babul andKasavi trees and coarse grass. Palms and kikar trees are also found here.
4) Desert vegetation: This type of vegetation is found in regions where the annual
rainfall is less than 50 cms. Rajasthan's Thar desert, the borders of Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat have this type of vegitation. The trees, which grow here have deep roots, thick leaves and thorns. Date palms are common near oasis. Babul, palms, wild dates and cactus are the important trees. Babul tree yields gum and its bark yields tanning material.
5) Mangrove forests: These forests are formed due to tides. They are found along the deltas and estuaries of rivers that are subjected to tides. Pendent roots (like those of Banyan tree) are the characteristics of mangrove forests. The deltas of rivers Ganges, Godavari, Mahanadi and Krishna have these forests. In the Ganges delta, there are plenty of Sundari trees and the forests are known as ‘Sunderbans’. These trees are used for making furniture and boats. These forests also yield firewood and tanning material. Canes, palms and "Kendale" trees are also found here.
6) Himalayan or Alpine vegetation: Different types of vegetation are found in the
Himalayan mountains. The vegetation changes with altitude and rainfall. The lower regions of the Himalayas have tropical evergreen forests upto 1,500 mts. Teak, sal and rose-wood are the important trees. Temperate forests are found between 1,500 to 3,650 mts. They are also called coniferous forests. The important trees of this vegetation are silver fir, oak, spruce, laurels, chestnut etc. Grasslands are found in altitude between 3,650 to 4,875 mts. Rhododendron, willow, juniper and primrose trees are found here. Flowering plants are found in Alpine meadows. During summer, at still higher altitude lichen and moss are found. Above 6,000 mts. the region is covered with snow and hence no vegetation is found.
IMPORTANCE OF FORESTS: Forests are a very important natural resource. They
provide raw materials to industries such as timber, bamboo, cane, gum, medicinal
plants, shrubs etc. They provide fodder to cattle. In addition to these benefits, there are other advantages which are of great importance. They are as follows:
1) Forests provide moisture and lower the temperature,
2) They prevent soil erosion and preserve the fertility of the soil,
3) Forests provide home for many animals and birds, thus preserving bio-diversity,
4) Forests help to preserve the ecological balance.
Forests are depleted due to large-scale cutting of trees due to industrial development, cultivation of crops, over-grazing by cattle, construction of railways and roadways, irrigation and power projects. This depletion of forests has resulted in floods and soil erosion. Due to increase in population, demand for forest products has increased. So, there is great need to protect forests. By planting more and more trees, we have to conserve forests.
CONSERVATION OF FORESTS: Forests are a natural gift to humankind. Human beings first lived in forests. Destruction of forests results in soil erosion, floods, drought etc. Hence, realising the importance of forests, the Central Government has formed a national forest policy in 1952. It has a threefold plan namely:
1) Nationalisation of forest operations
2) Protection and operation of wild life and environment and social forestry
3) Commercialisation of industrial forest operation
Social forestry aims at not only providing enough firewood, fodder and other forest products but also to meet the requirements of ecological balance through large scale afforestation in community land and waste land. “Vanamohotsava” which was started in 1950, aims at planting thousands of seedlings during July and August. Thus it helps to preserve ecological balance.