India has a total geographical area of 32,87,263 sq km, of which the total forest area is 7,12,249 sq km. It means 21.67% of the total geographical area of the country is under forests. As per the India State of Forest Report 2019, the total forest area and tree cover in India are about 8,07,276 sq km, equal to 24.56% of the total geographical area. Due to diverse geographical and climatic conditions, India has a wide range of flora & fauna and natural vegetation. The forest of India has been classified in several ways, which are as follow:
Based on Administration
On the Administration basis, Indian forests have been classified into the following three categories:
1. Reserved Forests
Reserved forests come under the direct supervision of the government and are accorded a certain degree of protection. No public entity is allowed for good gathering, grazing of the cattle, or collection of timber. About 53% of the total forest area of the country comes under this category.
2. Protected Forests
Protected forests also look after by the government. However, the local people are allowed for food gathering, graze their cattle, and collect fuel-wood/timber without causing serious damage to the forests. About 29% of the total forest area of the country falls under the protected forests.
3. Unclassified Forests
Unclassified forests are those forests where there is no restriction of grazing the cattle and cutting of trees. These forests cover about 18% of the total forest area of the country.
Based on Composition and types of leaves
1. Conifer forests
Conifers forests are temperate forests, which grow in areas having low temperatures. Vegetation found in these forests is primarily composed of cone-bearing needle-leaved evergreen trees having downward sloping branches. About 6.5% of the total forest area of the country comes under the conifer forests. These forests are found in the eastern Middle Himalayas and North-eastern states of India like Arunachal Pradesh.
2. Broad-leaf forests
Broad-leaf forests are tropical and subtropical forests having vegetation with large leaves of various shapes. About 94% of the total geographical area covers by Broad-leaf forests. These forests are found in the plains, plateau, mountainous regions of the country.
Classification as per Indian Constitution
1. State Forests
State forests include almost all the important forest areas of the country. These forests fully control by the government (Central/State). They cover about 94% of the total forest area of the country.
2. Commercial forests
Commercial forests are owned and administered by local bodies such as municipal boards, municipal corporations, district boards, and village panchayats. About 5% of the total forest area of the country falls under this category.
3. Private Forests
These types of forests are under private ownership. They constitute more than 1% of the total forest area of the country.
Based on Merchantability
1. Merchantable forests
Merchantable forests are those which are accessible. These forests constitute about 82% of the total forest area of the country.
2. Non-Merchantable forests
Non-Merchantable forests are those which are not accessible because of high mountainous areas having inaccessible topographical features. They constitute about 18% of the total forest area.
Based on Average Annual Rainfall
1. Tropical Evergreen forests
Tropical evergreen forests are mainly found in areas where the average annual rainfall is over 150 cm, and temperature varies between 20°C to 27°C. The forests having an average annual rainfall of more than 250 cm are dense and composed of tall trees, parasites, epiphytes, and lianas. The trees in these forests do not shed their leaves annually and have a multi-storeyed structure with good canopies. White Cedar, dhup, toon, chalpas, Mesua, canes, agor, and bamboo are important species of these forests.
These forests are found in North-East India, upper Assam, lower slopes of Eastern Himalayas, along the foothills of the Himalayas, parts of Western Ghats, Odisha, and the Andaman & Nicobar.
2. Tropical Moist Deciduous forests
These are typical monsoon forests having an average annual rainfall ranges between 100 cm to 200 cm. Teak and Sal are the dominant pieces of these forests. The vegetation consists of tall teaks trees, bamboos, Sal, and shrubs growing fairly close together. Sandalwood, Shishsam, Hurra, and Khair are other main species found. These forests are found in Sahyadris, the northeastern part of the peninsula, and along the foothills of the Himalayas.
3. Tropical Thorny forests
Tropical Thorny forest is the degraded version of moist deciduous forests, having average annual rainfall between 75 cm and 100 cm and temperature between 16°C and 22.5°C. Wild palms, acacia, euphorbias, Tamarix, Khair, dhaman, Kokko, cacti, and palas are the main species of these forests. Tropical Thorny forests are found along the foothills of the Himalayas and in Peninsular India, Kutch, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.
4. Subtropical Montane forests
Subtropical Montane forests are found in areas having average annual rainfall between 100 cm to 200 cm and temperature between 15°C to 22°C. Broad-leaved trees are found in these areas. Chir is the main tree, while Oak, Jamun, and rhododendron are other varieties found in these forests. They are found in the north-western Himalayas (except in Kashmir and Ladakh), Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and on the slopes of northeastern hill states.
5. Himalayas Moist forests
Himalayan Moist Forests are found in the Himalayan region of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and in parts of the northern hills of Bengal, where the altitude varies between 1000 m and 2000m. Oak, Chestnut, Sal, Chir, shrubs, and nutritious grasses are the main varieties of these forests.
6. Montane Wet Temperate Forests
These forests are found in the entire Himalayan region from Jammu & Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh, at an altitude between 1500 m to 3500 m. The average annual rainfall varies between 100 cm to 250 cm and temperature between 12°C to 15°C. The wood obtains from these forests is durable in nature. The main varieties of trees include Oak, pir, spruce, deodar, Celtis, cedar, chestnut, magnolia, maple, and silver fir.
7. Dry Deciduous forests
Dry Deciduous forests are found in areas where the average annual rainfall varies between 100 cm and 150 cm. These forests have closed rather uneven canopies. Enough light reaches the ground, which permits the growth of climbers and grasses. The main tree includes Acacia, Jamun, and Modesta.
8. Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests
These forests are predominantly coniferous forests with shrubs found in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Sikkim. Oak, Deodar, ash, olive, Celtis, Parrotia, maple, mulberry are the main varieties found in these forests.
9. Alpine and Sub-alpine Forests
Alpine and Sub-alpine forests are found all along the Himalayas at altitudes between 2500 m to 3500 m. Kail, Spruce, yew, Potentilla, Artemesia, and honeysuckle are the main trees found here. During the summer season, short dwarf conifers and lush green nutritious grasses grow in these areas.
10. Desert Vegetation
The desert vegetation is confined to the west of Aravallis in Rajasthan and northern Gujarat, where the average annual rainfall is less than 50 cm, and the annual temperature is high. Cacti, Wild Palms, Acacia, Khejra, Kanju, and jhar are the main trees of the desert.
11. Tidal / Mangrove
These are found along with the coastal areas of Kutch, Kathiawar, Gulf of Khambat, and the coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Mangroves are mainly found in areas where tides are frequent. Mangrove includes coconut, Pines, Canes, Crew, and Sundri trees. Sunderbans along the Ganga delta in West Bengal is the world’s largest tidal forest.