India State of Forest Report – UPSC Notes

India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is an assessment report of India’s forest and tree cover. The information provided by the IFSR constitutes the primary data on different parameters of the forest and tree resources of the country and the manner in which the resources have been changing over time.

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) publishes the ISFR every two years. The Forest Survey of India is an organisation under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, which conducts forest surveys, studies and research to monitor the changing situations of land and forest resources. The first India State of Forest Report got published in 1987.

This biennial report helps in the policies formulation, planning and management of forests & investments affecting the country’s forestry sector.

ISFR provides a significant amount of data that meets India’s reporting requirements to the International Organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and for the various conventions & commitments like the UNFCCC, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which India is a signatory.

Overview of the India State of Forest Report 2021

Published by:Forest Survey of India (FSI)
Total forest and tree cover of the country80.9 million hectares (which is 24.62% of the geographical area of the country
Top three states showing an increase in forest cover1. Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km)
2. Telangana (632 sq km)
3. Odisha (537 sq km)
States having the Largest Forest Cover (Area-wise)1. Madhya Pradesh
2. Arunachal Pradesh
3. Chhattisgarh
4. Odisha
5. Maharashtra
Top five states in terms of forest cover as a percentage of total geographical area1. Mizoram (84.53%)
2. Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%)
3. Meghalaya (76.00%)
4. Manipur (74.34%)
5. Nagaland (73.90%)

About the India State of Forest Report 2021

  • On 13 January 2022, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021.
  • As the first survey got published in 1987, the ISFR-2021 is 17th in the series.
  • The ISFR-2021 provides information on:
    • Forest cover,
    • Tree cover,
    • Mangrove cover,
    • Growing stock,
    • Carbon stock in India’s forests,
    • Forest fire monitoring,
    • Forest cover in tiger reserve areas,
    • Above ground estimates of biomass using SAR data, and
    • Climate Change hotspots in Indian forests.
  • The three categories of forests surveyed are: Very Dense Forest (VDF), Moderately Dense Forest (MDF), and Open Forest (OF). In addition, the scrub areas are also surveyed but not categorized as forests.

Forest Cover classified in terms of canopy density classes

Very Dense ForestAll lands with tree canopy density of 70% and above.
Moderately Dense ForestAll lands with tree canopy density of 40% and more, but less than 70%
Open ForestAll lands with tree canopy density of 10% and more, but less than 40%
ScrubForest-lands with canopy density of less than 10%
Non-forestLands not included in any of the above classes (includes water)

New Features of the India State of Forest Report 2021

  • ISFR 2021 has included a new chapter related to the assessment of forest cover in Tiger Reserves, Corridors and Lion conservation areas of India.
  • A new initiative of Forest Survey of India (FSI) has also been documented in the form of a chapter, where the ‘Above Ground Biomass (AGB)‘ has been estimated. The FSI, in collaboration with Space Application Centre (SAC), ISRO, Ahmedabad, initiated a special study for the estimation of Above Ground Biomass at the pan-India level, using the L-band of the Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data.
  • The FSI, in collaboration with the Birla Institute of Technology & Sciences (BITS) Pilani, Goa campus, has performed a study based on ‘Mapping of Climate Change Hotspots in Indian Forests‘.
  • The report also contains data on various parameters State/UT wise. Special Thematic information on forest covers, such as hills, tribal districts, and north-eastern region, has also been given separately in the report.
  • The report covers ” recorded forest area” and other forest cover irrespective of ownership and land use. The term “Forest Area” denotes the legal status of land as per the government records, whereas the term “Forest Cover” denotes the presence of trees over any land.

Key Findings of the Indian State of Forest Report 2021

Forest and Tree Cover of the country

  • As per the ISFR 2021, India’s total forest and tree cover has risen by 2261 square kilometres in the last two years. Out of this, the forest cover has increased by 1540 sq km, whereas the tree cover by 721 sq km.
  • The Total Forest and Tree Cover of the country is 80.9 million hectares, which is 24.62% of the geographical area of India.
  • India’s Forest Cover is now 7,13,789 sq km, which is 21.71% of the country’s geographical area.
  • The increase in forest cover has been observed in Open Forests, followed by Very Dense Forests.

Change in Forest Cover

  • The top five states which have shown an increase in the forest cover are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq km), followed by Telangana ((632 sq km), Odisha (547 sq km), Karnataka (155 sq km) and Jharkhand (110 sq km).
  • The States showing Major Loss in Forest Cover are Arunachal Pradesh (257 sq km), Manipur (249 sq km), Nagaland ( 235 sq km), Mizoram (186 sq km), and Meghalaya (73 sq km).

State/UT wise Forest Cover

  • Area-wise Forest Cover: Madhya Pradesh have the Largest Forest Cover in the country, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Maharashtra.
  • Percentage-wise Forest Cover: The States from the north-eastern region of the country have the highest percentage of Forest Cover w.r.t. total geographical area of the State.
    • Mizoram (84.53%) has the highest percentage of the Forest Cover, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76%), Manipur (74.34%), and Nagaland (73.90%).
  • According to the report, 17 States/UTs have above 33% of the geographical area under the forest cover.

Forest Cover in the Mountainous States/UTs

  • The forest area of Himachal Pradesh has increased by 9 square kilometres, but the moderately dense forest in the State has decreased.
  • Jammu and Kashmir have shown a decrease in very dense forests. It has now 4155 sq km of very dense forests in 2021, whereas, in 2019, it had 4270 sq km of very dense forest.
  • The States/UTs such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh are to record maximum increase in temperature mainly due to forest cover loss/

Mangrove Cover

  • As per ISFR 2021, Mangrove Cover has increased by 17 sq km as compared to the last assessment of 2019.
  • The top three states showing an increase in Mangrove Cover are Odisha (8 sq km), followed by Maharashtra (4 sq km) and Karnataka (3 sq km).
  • The total Mangrove Cover in the country is now 4,992 sq km.

Carbon Stock in India’s Forests

  • There is an increase of 79.4 million tonnes in the Carbon Stock of India as compared to the previous assessment of 2019.
  • The annual increase in the Carbon Stock is 39.7 million tonnes.
  • The Total Carbon Stock in the country’s forest is estimated to be 7,204 million tonnes.
  • The forest carbon stock is the amount of carbon sequestered from the atmosphere, now stored within the forest ecosystem, primarily within living biomass and soil and also to a lesser extent in deadwood and litter.

Bamboo Resources of the country

  • As per the 2021 report, Bamboo forests have grown from 13,882 million culms (stems) in 2019 to 53,336 million culms in 2021.

Forest Cover in Tiger Reserve Areas

  • For the first time, the ISFR 2021 has assessed the Forest Cover in tiger reserves, tiger corridors, and the lion conservation area of India.
  • Between 2011 and 2021, the forest cover in the tiger corridor has increased by 37.15 sq km, which is 0.32%. However, the forest cover in the tiger reserve decreased by 22.6 sq km (0.04%).
  • The Forest Cover has decreased in 32 tiger reserves between 2011-2021 and increased in 20 tiger reserves in these ten years.
  • The top three Tiger Reserves showing an increase in the Forest Cover are:
    • Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal (238.80 sq km)
    • Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Naidu (120.78 sq km)
    • Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh (64.48 sq km)
  • The 32 Tiger Reserves has shown a declining trend, ranging from 0.06 sq km in Orang (Assam) to 118.97 sq km in Kawal (Telangana).
  • The highest losses in the Forest Cover are shown by:
    • Kawal Tiger Reserve (Telangana)
    • Bhadra Tiger Reserve (Karnataka)
    • Sunderbans reserves (West Bengal)

Forest Fire Monitoring

  • As per the ISFR 2021, 35.46% of the forest cover are prone to forest fires, out of which:
    • 2.81% is Extremely prone,
    • 7.85% is very highly prone, and
    • 11.51% is highly prone.

Climate Change hotspots in Indian forests

  • ISFR 2021 estimates that by 2030, around 45-64% of Indian forests will experience the negative impact of climate change and rising temperatures.
  • Forest in all Indian States (except Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Nagaland) will be highly vulnerable climate hotspots.
  • Ladakh (forest cover 0.1%-0.2%) is likely to be most affected due to climate change and rising temperature.

Concerns with the decline trends

Decline in the Natural Forests

The Moderately Dense Forests (or Natural Forests) have decreased by 1582 sq km. This decline, in conjunction with an increase of 2621 sq km of Open Forest Areas, shows degradation of forests in the country. Also, the Scrub areas have increased by 5320 sq km, indicating the replacement of forest area by scrubs in these regions. However, the Very Dense Forests has increased by 501 sq km.

Decline in the North-East Forest Cover

The overall forest cover in this region has declined by 1020 square kilometres. This decline is mainly due to natural calamities, particularly landslides & heavy rains and anthropogenic activities, like agriculture shifting, development activities, and the felling of trees.

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