Natural Vegetation

Natural Vegetation | Geography


  • Natural vegetation is the vegetation or plant cover naturally grown on the earth ‘surface.
  • It is a result of climate, soil and biotic influences.
  • The forest is one of the greatest natural resources available to human beings.
  • Yet they have declined through centuries.
  • Vast areas of forest have been cleared for cultivation of crops due to overpopulation
  • These phenomena should be controlled for sustainable development of forest resources.

India‘s Forest Resources

  • India‘s forest resources are unique in nature because there are a large number of species of plants, ranging from a drought – resisting thorny shrub to tropical evergreen forest.
  • The total forest area is around 63.72 million
  • The percentage of forest in the total area of India is 19.39%, which is considered rather low when compared to the forest areas is not evenly distributed, some states have 60 per cent area under forests while other states have only 3 per cent.
  • The fast shrinkage in forest area is mainly due to the growth in population which leads to increasing demands for agricultural land, urbanization, industrialisation and new townships.

Types of Natural Vegetation

  • The geographical factors which control the growth of natural vegetation in India are temperature, rainfall, topography and soil.
  • On the basis of the above factors, the natural vegetation of India can be divided into the following six types. They are
  • Tropical evergreen forests
  • Tropical Monsoon forests
  • Shrub and Thorn forests
  • Desert vegetation
  • Mangrove forests
  • Mountain forests

Tropical Evergreen Forests

  • The tropical evergreen forests are found in the regions where the annual rainfall is more than 200 cm.
  • The trees in these forests are evergreen and do not shed their leaves.
  • These forests are very dense and composed of tall trees reaching up to the height of above 60 metres.
  • Due to the dense growth of trees, the sunlight cannot reach the ground. Thus, the undergrowth mainly consists of, bamboos, ferns and climbers.
  • The important trees of these forests are Rose Wood, Ebony, Mahogany, Rubber, Cinchona, Bamboo and Lianas.
  • The evergreen forests are mostly found along the western side of the Western Ghats, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lower slopes of the Himalayas and some parts of Assam and Orissa.

Tropical Monsoon Forests

  • These are the typical monsoon forests and are found mainly in those areas where the average annual rainfall ranges between 70 cm and 200 cm.
  • The trees in the deciduous forests shed their leaves due to dryness for about 6 to 8 weeks during the spring and early summer. Hence these forests are called deciduous forests.
  • The tropical deciduous forests are commercially most important as they yield valuable timber and variety of other forest products.
  • The main trees are Teak, Sal, Sisham, Sandalwood, Wattle and Neem.
  • The tropical monsoon forests are commercially most exploited.
  • These forests have also suffered from severe biotic factors such as over – cutting, overgrazing and fires.
  • The moist monsoon forests are found on the peninsular plateau, plains of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Shrub and Thorn Forests

  • These forests are found mainly in those areas where the average annual rainfall is less than 75 cm with the long dry season.
  • The trees are scattered in these forests. They have long roots to tap water in the underground.  They have thick and small leaves which retard evaporation.  They have thorny thick bark.
  • The main trees are Acacia, Palms and Cacti.
  • Other important trees include Khair, Babul, Palas, Khagri, and Kajuri.
  • It is mainly found in the northwestern part of the country, including semi-arid areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, South-Western Punjab and western Haryana.
  • These forests are also grown on the leeward sides of the Western Ghats, covering large areas in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Desert Vegetation

  • It is found in regions where the rainfall is less than 25 cm.
  • The Vegetation mostly consists of thorny bushes, acacias, wild berries and babul.
  • These trees are 6 to 10 meters high but they have long roots and are armed with hard thorns to protect themselves from animals.
  • The babul yields gum and its bark provide material for tanning hides and skins.
  • These are found in Rajasthan, Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat, southwestern Punjab and parts of the Deccan.

Mangrove forests

  • Mangrove forests are found in coastal areas flooded by the tides of the sea.
  • Some of these forests are dense and impenetrable.
  • The Trunks of these trees are supported by a number of roots which are underwater at high tide, their roots can be seen.
  • They are found in great abundance in the deltas of the Ganga, Mahanadhi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri and along the coasts of the Andaman Islands.
  • They are also found along the west coast in a few places.
  • In West Bengal, they are called Sunderbans.
  • These woods are hard, strong and durable and are used for boat building.
  • These forests are a valuable source of fuel.

Mountain Forests

  • The natural vegetation in the mountains is greatly influenced by the decrease of temperature with increase in height above sea level.
  • The mountain forest can be broadly classified into two major categories.
  • The forests in the Himalayan ranges.
  • The forests in the peninsular Plateau and hill ranges.
  • In the Himalayan Mountains, the forests are found between the heights of 1,000 m and 2,000 m.
  • The evergreen broadleaf trees such as oak, Chestnut predominates.
  • Between the height of 1500 m and 3000 m, the coniferous trees such as
  • pine
  • deodar
  • Silver fir
  • Spruce
  • Cedar is found.
  • The coniferous forest covers the southern slopes of Himalayas and parts of North East India.
  • At an altitude of above 3,600 m, coniferous forest covers the southern slopes of Himalayas and parts of North East India.
  • At an altitude of above 3, 600 m, coniferous forest and grasslands give way to alpine vegetation.
  • Silver fir, junipers, Pines; Birches are common varieties of trees.
  • At higher altitudes, mosses and lichens form part of the vegetation.
  • In peninsular India the mountain forests are found in three areas. They are
  • Western Ghats
  • Vindhyas
  • Nilgiris
  • In Nilgiris, the tropical forests are locally called ‘sholas’ such forests are also found in the Satpura and Malikala ranges.
  • The important trees in this region are Magnolia, Laurel, Cinchona and Wattle.

Grass Lands

  • Though the Indian grasslands are not comparable to the savanna or steppes grasslands, they do occur on wet soil ground and in the salt belt and some hilly areas.
  • They are subdivided into two categories.

Low-Land Grasses

  • These are found in regions receiving 30 cm to 200 cm of average annual rainfall where the temperature is high during summer.
  • These grasses are found on different sols and are suitable for cattle – breeding.
  • They are found in the plains of northern India, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar and Northwest Assam.

Upland Grasses

  • They are found at a height of over 1,000 m of the Himalayas and in the cleared forest areas of the Western Ghats in Karnataka Region.
  • They are found among small tracts of shoal forest in the Southern part of India too.

Importance Forests

  • Forest provides valuable timber for domestic and commercial use and raw materials for industries.
  • It supplies a number of products such as lac, Gum, Resins, Tanning Materials, Medicines, Herbs, Honey and Spices.
  • Export of forest products earns valuable foreign exchange.
  • Grazing cattle in the forests help in dairy farming.
  • Many forest reserves have been developed into tourist centres.
  • Forests absorb atmospheric carbon-di-oxides and help in controlling air pollution.
  • Forests help in controlling soil erosion, land reclamation and flood control.
  • Forests help in water percolation and thus maintain the underground water table.
  • Forests provide natural habitats to primitive tribes, animals and birds.
  • Forests are the moderators of climate and affect temperature, humidity and rainfall.
  • Forests meet nearly 40 % of the energy needs of the country.
  • In India, much of its forests and wildlife resources are maintained by the Forest Department.
  • They are classified into the following categories.

Reserve Forests

  • More than half of the total forest land has been declared as reserved forests.
  • It is also known as permanent forests, it is regarded as the most valuable as far as the conservation of forests and wildlife resources are concerned.

Protected Forests

  • Almost one – third of the total forest area is protected forest, as declared by the Forest Department.
  • Here, felling trees are not allowed.

Forest Conservation and Management

  • The increasing destruction and degradation of forests have led to extensive soil erosion, uncertainty in rainfall and recurring floods.
  • The Forests Conservation Act of 1980was formulated especially to check deforestation of forestlands for non-forestry purposes.
  • In 1988, the act was amended by prescribing severe punishment to violators.
  • The government should involve village communities and voluntary agencies for the regeneration of degraded forest land.

National Forest Policy

  • India is one of the very few countries in the world, where a policy to conserve forests was developed in 1894.
  • It was modified and updated in 1952 and 1988.

The main objectives of the policy

  • Bring 33 percent of the geographical area under forest (now it is 20% only)
  • Maintain environmental stability where the ecological balance was disturbed.
  • Conserve biodiversity of the country
  • Check soil erosion, the extension of desert land and reduction of floods and drought.
  • Increase forest cover through social forestry and farm forestry.
  • Increase productivity of timber, fuel, and fodder from the forest
  • Involve women to encourage planting trees and stop the felling of trees.
  • It is our prime duty to conserve our country‘s natural vegetation.

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