Natural Vegetation in India
India is one of the 12 mega bio-diversity countries of the world. These are a group of countries that have the majority of the Earth’s species and, therefore, are considered extremely bio-diverse.
Being a vast country, India has 47,000 plant species (out of which 15,000 are flowering plants, i.e., 6% in the world), occupies the 10th position worldwide and fourth in Asia.
Non-flowering plants such as ferns, algae, and fungi also grow here. It also has around 90,000 species of animals (including marine and freshwater fishes) and insects.
- Natural Vegetation
- Questions & Answers on Natural Vegetation India
- Important Terms in Bio Diversity
- Climate and Seasons of India
- Soils of India
- Farming in India : Agriculture
- Wildlife in India
- Major Landforms
- Geography: Branches of Geography
What is Natural Vegetation ?
Natural or virgin vegetation means the plant community that has grown naturally without any human intervention for a long time.
The natural vegetation which is left undisturbed over a long period of time, is called virgin vegetation.
Virgin vegetation Types
Virgin vegetation is of two types:
1. Endemic Species: Those plant species that originated from within the country are termed as endemic species.
2. Exotic Species: Those plant species that originated outside the country are termed as exotic species.
Factors affecting Diversity of Vegetation
Factors which influence the variety of flora and fauna include relief (land and soil), climate (temperature, photoperiod, and precipitation), and the ecosystem.
It affects the natural vegetation both directly and indirectly.
The nature of the land, i.e., whether it is plain, hilly, or a plateau, determines the kind of vegetation that will grow in it. Fertile lands are used for growing crops, vegetables, and fruits.
Flora and Fauna
The term flora is used to denote plant species of a particular region, while the term fauna refers to the species of animals in a particular area or region.
Undulating (wavy) and rough surfaces generally develop either into grasslands or woodlands (forests).
Different types of land accordingly sustain and provide shelter to different kinds of wildlife.
The soils also vary from place to place. Different kinds of soils provide different kinds of vegetation. For example, alluvial or deltaic soil of a river delta near the sea will sustain mangrove forests, while slopes of hills have conical trees.
The sandy soils of a desert sustain thorny bushes.
It includes temperature, photoperiod, and precipitation.
Temperature, along with the humidity in the air and precipitation determines the character of vegetation and its extent.
As the climate gets colder, either by an increase in altitude (above 915 m) or by going away from the equator, the vegetation will change from tropical to sub-tropical, temperate, and then alpine.
For example, on the slopes of the Himalayas and hills of the Peninsula, the fall in temperature aff ects the type of vegetation and its growth.
The amount and duration of the sunlight is known as ‘photoperiod’.
The difference in latitude, altitude, and season brings variation in the duration of sunlight in diff erent places. In warmer regions and climates, plant growth is faster due to longer duration of sunlight, especially with the availability of adequate moisture.
An instance is the fact that the southern slopes of the Himalayas are covered with thicker vegetation than the northern slopes.
Advancing south-west monsoon (June to September) and retreating northeast (October–November) monsoons bring almost all the rainfall in India.
Areas of heavy rainfall always have denser vegetation than other areas with lesser rainfall.
The south-west monsoon rains on the windward side of the Western Ghats, thus cause a heavy growth of tropical evergreen forests there, whereas the leeward side does not have any such forests.
What is a Biome?
It is a major community of plants and animals having similar life forms existing under similar environmental conditions.
A biome is identified on the basis of plant existing there. It is also termed as ‘major life zone’.
Various species of plants occur in areas having similar climatic conditions. To a large extent, its nature determines the animal life in that area.
All the plants and animals in an area are interdependent on each other in their physical environment and form an ecosystem.
Thus, an ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the non-living, physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water, and sunlight.
Human Influence in an Ecosystem
Human beings influence ecosystems in the following manner:
❖❖ They utilize vegetation and wildlife.
❖❖ The greed of human beings leads to over-utilization of natural resources.
❖❖ Human beings cut trees and kill the anima, creating an ecological imbalance.
❖❖ Owing to the activities of human beings, some of the plants and animals have reached the verge of extinction.
Importance of Forests
Forests are advantageous for the environment.
They influence the climate, reduce soil erosion, regulate stream flow, provide raw material for industries and livelihood for many, etc.
They control wind force and temperature and cause rainfall. They also provide shelter to various animal species.
Change in the Nature of Vegetation In India
Factors such as the growing demand for cultivated land, development of industries, mining, and urbanization have changed natural vegetation.
The vegetation cover of India in large parts is no more natural in the real sense, except in some inaccessible regions like the Himalayas, the hilly region of Central India, and the Marusthali.
In most of the places, it is either modified, replaced or degraded by human interference.
Types of Vegetation
The relief and climatic factors develop different types of vegetation. On the basis of the major forest types, India has the following types of vegetation.
1. Tropical Evergreen Forests
2. Tropical Deciduous Forests
3. Tropical Thorn Forests and Scrubs
4. Montane Forests
5. Mangrove Forests
Tropical Evergreen Forests
These are also called tropical rainforests. They cover about 12% of the total forested areas of India.
They are found in areas where the annual rainfall is over 200 cm.
Western slopes of the Western Ghats, both groups of islands (Lakshadweep, Andaman & Nicobar Islands), upper parts of Assam and some parts of the coasts of Tamil Nadu, and Odisha contain tropical rain forests.
❖❖ As these areas are warm and wet almost throughout the year, they have abundant vegetation with tall trees (up to 60 m), creepers, and bushes.
❖❖ The vegetation occurs in a multilayered structure.
❖❖ These appear green throughout the year, as the trees shed their leaves at different times.
Plants: Ebony, mahogany, cinchona, rubber, and rosewood trees are useful commercial trees found here.
Animals found here include rhinoceros, elephants, various species of monkey, lemur, deer, ma
Tropical Deciduous Forests
These cover about 64% of the total forested areas of the country and are the most abundant variety of forests in India.
These are also called monsoon forests and spread over the region receiving rainfall between 200 and 70 cm.
Trees of this forest type shed their leaves for about 6 to 8 weeks in dry summer.
Types of Tropical Deciduous Forest
On the basis of the availability of water, these forests are further divided into moist and dry deciduous.
Moist Deciduous Tropical Forest
Forests growing in annual rainfall areas between 100 and 200 cm are classified as moist deciduous. They cover about 34% of the country’s forested area.
They are found mostly in the eastern part of the country such as North- Eastern states, West Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, foothills of Himalayas and the leeward side of the Western Ghats.
Teak (dominant species), bamboo, sal, shisham, sandalwood, khair, kusum, arjun, and mulberry trees are found in these forests.
Dry Deciduous Tropical Forest
Forests growing in annual rainfall areas between 70 and 100 cm are classified as dry deciduous. They cover about 30% of the country’s forested area.
These are found in rainier parts of the Peninsular Plateau and the plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Flora and Fauna
Teak, sal, peepal, and neem trees grow in these areas.
Many parts of these areas have been cleared for agricultural activities and for grazing. Besides lions, tigers, elephants, pigs, and deer, many varieties of birds, lizards, snakes, and tortoise are found in these forests.
Tropical Thorn Forests and Scrubs
These cover about 5% of the total forested areas of India.
These are found in areas where the annual rainfall is less than 70 cm.
Region of Occurrence: These are found in the north-western part of the country including semi-arid areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, some areas of Uttar Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh, as well as parts of the Deccan Plateau.
Characteristics of Tropical Thorn Forests and Scrubs
❖❖ The trees found in tropical thorn forests and scrubs are scattered.
❖❖ Other such plants which have long roots, succulent stems, and small thick leaves are also found here.
All these characteristics have developed to minimize evaporation and conserve moisture. Only scrubs are found in desert areas with the least rainfall.
Flora and Fauna: Trees like acacia, palm, euphorbia, and cactus are found in these areas. Fox, wolf, rats and mice, wild ass, horse, tiger, lion, camels, and similar animals are found in these areas.
These forests cover about 17% of the total forested areas of India and are found in the mountainous areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
Natural vegetation changes
with the corresponding change in temperature with the increasing altitude in mountainous regions. The succession of natural vegetation belts is the same as in the order from tropical to tundra vegetation.
Altitudinal Distribution of Mountain Forests
❖❖ Wet Temperate Forest: At lower altitudes between 1,000 and 2,000 m, wet temperate forests with evergreen broad leaf trees such as oak and
chestnut are prominent.
❖❖ Temperate Forest: At the altitude between 1,500 and 3,000 m, temperate forests containing coniferous trees like pine, deodar, silver fir, spruce, and cedar are found. These forests mostly cover the southern slopes of the Himalayas, places having high altitude in southern and north-east India.
❖❖ Temperate Grasslands: These are found at higher elevations. At high altitudes above 3,600 m, temperate forest and grasslands give way to alpine vegetation.
❖❖ Alpine Vegetation: This vegetation through shrubs and scrubs merges into alpine grasslands. These areas are extensively used by nomadic tribes like Gujjars and Bakarwals for grazing.
❖❖ Tundra Vegetation: Mosses and lichens are part of tundra vegetation and are found at higher altitudes.
Flora and Fauna: Kashmir stag, spotted dear, wild sheep, jack rabbit,
Tibetan antelope, yak, snow leopard, squirrels, shaggy horn wild ibex, bear and rare red panda, sheep, and goats with thick hair are found here. Silver fir, pine, juniper, birch, etc. are trees common here.
These are found in the coastal delta areas influenced by sea tides. Owing to this fact, they are also called tidal forests.
The roots of the predominate mangroves are submerged underwater. Such forests are found in the delta areas of rivers on the east coast of India (Ganga, Brahmaputra, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri) due to mud and silt brought down by the rivers.
Flora and Fauna:
❖❖ In the Ganga–Brahmaputra delta, sundari trees providing durable timber are prominent. Other trees are palm, coconut, keora, and agar.
❖❖ Animals found here include the Royal Bengal tigers, snakes, turtles, gharials, and crocodiles.
India is also rich in its fauna [animal life, just as flora (plant life)].
It has approximately 90,000 animal species and 2,000 species of birds They constitute 13% of the total world’s stock.
There are 2,546 species of fish, which account for nearly 12% of the world’s stock.
It also shares between 5 to 8% of the world’s amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. The existence of animals in our country varies from place to place.
Distribution of Wildlife in India
❖❖ The elephants are the most majestic animals among the mammals.
They are found in the hot, wet forests of Assam, Karnataka, and Kerala.
❖❖ One-horned rhinoceroses are the other animals that live in the swampy and marshy lands of Assam and West Bengal.
❖❖ Arid areas of the Rann of Kachchh and the Thar desert are the habitat for wild ass and camels respectively.
❖❖ India is the only country in the world that has both tigers and lions. The natural habitat of the Indian lion is the Gir forest in Gujarat.
Tigers are found in the forests of Madhya Pradesh, the Sunderbans of West Bengal, and the Himalayan region.
❖❖ Leopards too are members of the cat family. They are important among animals of prey.
❖❖ The Himalayas harbour a hardy range of animals, which survive in extreme cold. Ladakh’s freezing high altitudes are a home to the yak, the shaggy horned wild ox (weighing around 1 tonne), the Tibetan antelope, the bharal (blue sheep), wild sheep, and the kiang (Tibetan wild ass).
❖❖ The ibex, bear, snow-leopard, and rare red panda are found in certain pockets.
❖❖ In the rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, turtles, crocodiles, and gharials are found. Gharial is the only representative of a variety of crocodile found in the world today.
❖❖ Bird life in India is colourful. Peacocks, pheasants, ducks, parakeets, cranes, and pigeons are some of the birds inhabiting the forests and wetlands of the country.
❖❖ Indian bison, nilgai (blue bull), chousingha (four horned antelope), gazelle, and different species of deer are some other animals found in India in different places. It also has several species of monkeys.
●● The Gir Forest is the last remaining habitat of the Asiatic lion.
Wildlife Protection Act
●● The Wildlife Protection Act was implemented in 1972 in India Migratory Birds: Some of the wetlands of India are popular with migratory birds.
During winter, birds such as the Siberian crane come in large numbers.
One such place favourable with birds is the Rann of Kachchh. At a place where the desert merges with the sea, flamingo with their brilliant pink plumage, come in thousands to build nest mounds from the salty mud and raise their young ones.
It is one of the many extraordinary sights in the country
Please Refer the reference notes given at the Beginning of this post
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