Land, Soil and Vegetation Resources in India Natural Vegetation in India, Major Vegetation Types Part 3

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Natural Vegetation in India

The assemblage of plant species, such as trees, shrubs, grasses, creepers, and climbers living in association with one another in a given environment is known as natural vegetation. On the other hand, forest denotes a large tract covered by trees and shrubs which has an economic significance for us.

The variations in climatic conditions in India have resulted in various types of natural vegetation in different parts of the country. Each plant needs a definite range of temperature and precipitation for its growth. This justifies the growth of tropical evergreen vegetation confined mainly to the Western Ghats, on account of hot and wet climatic conditions. The same is true for temperate evergreen vegetation of northeast India and thorny or arid or semi-arid vegetation of Rajasthan desert and adjoining areas. Deciduous vegetation grows in central parts of India owing to the moderate climatic conditions prevailing over there.

Major Vegetation Types

Natural vegetation cover in India is generally divided into following categories:

Moist Tropical Evergreen Vegetation: These are the tropical rain forests which are further divided into two sub-types on the basis of their characteristics.

The Wet Tropical Evergreen Vegetation: It is found in regions of very high annual rainfall exceeding 300 cm with a very brief dry season. Southern parts of Western Ghats of Kerala and Karnataka are very wet. North-eastern Hills are known for this type of vegetation. It resembles the equatorial vegetation. This type of vegetal cover has been badly depleted due to over cutting of trees. The major characteristics of this type of vegetation are:

  • These forests are dense and have lofty evergreen trees, often as high as 60 metres and above.

  • Mahogany, cinchona, bamboos and palms are typical species of plants found in these forests.

  • Undergrowth is very dense and thick. Grass is almost absent.

  • The wood of these trees is very hard and heavy to work with.

Moist Tropical Semi-Evergreen Vegetation: It is found between wet evergreen vegetation and moist temperate deciduous vegetation. This type of vegetation is found on the Meghalaya plateau, Sahyadri, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This vegetation is confined to areas receiving an annual rainfall of about 250 to 300 cm. Its important characteristics are:

  • The vegetation cover is less dense than the wet evergreen forests.

  • Timber of these forests is fine textured and of good quality.

  • Rosewood, aini and telsur are important trees in Sahyadri, champa, joon and gurjan in Assam and Meghalaya, and ironwood, ebony and laurel grew in other regions.

  • Shifting agriculture and over exploitation of forests have depleted this vegetal cover to a great extent.

Moist Tropical Deciduous Vegetation: This is the most widespread vegetal cover of India. This type of vegetation is found in areas receiving annual rainfall of 100 to 200 cm. These include the Sahyadri, the north-eastern plateau of the peninsula and the Himalayan foot hills in the Siwaliks, the bhabars and terai regions. The important characteristics of this vegetation are:

  • The trees shed their leaves once in a year in dry season.

  • This is typical monsoon vegetation consisting of larger number of commercially important species than the evergreen forests.

  • Teak, sal, sandalwood, shisham, cane, and bamboo are important trees of these forests.

  • Large-scale cutting of trees for timber has depleted these forests hopelessly.

Forest Types of India

Image of Forest Types of India

Forest Types of India

Dry Tropical Vegetation: This type of vegetation is divided into two sub-types as under:

Dry Tropical Deciduous Vegetation: It is found in regions receiving annual rainfall between 70 to 100 cm. These regions include parts of Uttar Pradesh, northern and western Madhya Pradesh, parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. These areas experience a long dry season and a moderate rainfall limited at best to four months. The important characteristics of this vegetation are:

  • Stretches of open grass are most common between groups of trees.

  • Teak is the dominant tree of this type of vegetation.

  • The trees shed their leaves during the long dry season.

Dry Tropical Thorny Vegetation: It is found in areas receiving annual rainfall less than 70 cm. These areas include north and north-western parts of India and leeward side of the Sahyadri. The important characteristics of this type of vegetation are:

  • Vast, poor and coarse grasslands are interspersed with widely spaced trees and bushes.

  • Acacia, euphorbias, cactus etc. are true representatives of this type of vegetation. Wild palm and spiny and thorny varieties are also found in some places.

Tidal Vegetation: This type of vegetation grows mainly in the deltaic regions of the Ganga, Mahanadi, Godavari, and Krishna which are flooded by tides and high sea waves. Mangrove is the representative of this type of vegetation. Sundari is the typical tree of tidal forests. It is found in abundance in the lower Ganga delta of West Bengal. This is the reason why it is popularly known as Sundarbans. It is known for its hard and durable timber.

The Mountain Vegetation: Due to the difference in temperature and other weather conditions of northern and peninsular mountain ranges, there exists difference in the vegetal cover of these two groups of mountain ranges. Hence, the mountain vegetation can be classified as:

The Mountain Vegetation of Peninsular Plateau: The high-altitude area of the plateau region includes Nilgiri, Annamalai and Palni hills, Mahabaleshwar in Western Ghats, Satpura and Maikal hills. The important characteristics of vegetation of this region are:

  • Stretches of open rolling grass plains with undeveloped forests or bushes are found.

  • The wet temperate forests below 1500 metres are less dense than those found above this height.

  • The forests have thick undergrowth, epiphytes, mosses and ferns.

  • Magnolia, laurel, elm are common trees.

  • Cinchona and eucalyptus have been introduced from outside the country.

The Mountain Vegetation of the Himalayan Ranges: In the Himalayan mountain region, the vegetation is different at increasing altitudes. This can be divided into following types:

  1. Moist Tropical Deciduous forests are found along the foot hills in the Siwaliks, upto the height of 1000 metres.

  2. The Wet Temperate Evergreen forests are found in the areas lying between 1000 to 3000 metres. The important characteristics of these forests are:

    • These are very thick forests of lofty trees.

    • Oak and chestnut are the predominant trees of the eastern Himalayan region while chir and pine are in the western part. Sal is the important tree in lower altitudes.

    • Deodar, silver fir and spruce are predominant trees between the height of 2000 and 3000 metres. These forests are less dense as compared to the forests at lesser elevations.

  3. Dry Temperate Vegetation is found on the higher hilly slopes of this mountain region which has moderate temperatures and rainfall between 70 cms and 100 cms. Important characteristics of this type of vegetation are:

    • This vegetation resembles the Mediterranean vegetation.

    • Wild olives, acacia are important trees along with hard, coarse and thick savanna grass.

    • Oak and deodar are found here and there.

  4. Alpine Vegetation is found between the altitude 3000 and 4000 metres. The important characteristics of these forests are:

  • These are far less dense.

  • Silver fir, juniper, birch, pine and rhododendron are important trees of these forests.

  • The trees get progressively stunted as they approach the snow line.

In Brief, It Can Be Said That:

Land has different roles like productive economic factor, foundation for social prestige and is the basis of wealth and political power. India is well endowed with cultivable land. It has favourable land-man ratio than Japan, and Netherlands, whereas it is not as favourable as it is in Australia, Canada and the U.S.A. Land use is a dynamic process. It changes over time due to a number of factors including increasing population and changes in cropping pattern and technology. However, bulk of land continues to be used for raising crops. India faces a lot of problems related to land. They are land degradation, tenure or ownership of land, and deforestation.

India has adopted two broad measures, land reclamation and land reforms to solve these problems. Soil is defined as upper layer of the earth composed of loose surface material. The soils of India are broadly divided into six groups. They are alluvial, regur or black, red, laterite, desert and mountain soils. Like land, soil also has problems such as soil erosion and soil exhaustion.

Various soil conservation methods like contour ploughing terracing, shelter belt formation and afforestation are adopted in India. Natural vegetation implies the assemblage of plant species living in association with one another in a given environment. Diversity in climatic conditions has resulted into a marked diversity in natural vegetation. The important vegetation types in India include the moist tropical evergreen, the moist tropical deciduous, the dry deciduous, the tidal forests, and the mountain vegetation.

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