Geography

Chapter- 5 Natural Vegetation & Wildlife of India

  • Our country India is one of the twelve mega bio-diversity countries of the world. With about 47,000 plant species India occupies tenth place in the world and fourth in Asia in plant diversity.

  • There are about 15,000 flowering plants in India which account for 6 per cent in the world’s total number of flowering plants.

  • India also has approximately 90,000 species of animals as well as a rich variety of fish in its fresh and marine waters.

  • Natural vegetation refers to a plant community which has grown naturally without human aid and has been left undisturbed by humans for a long time. This is termed as a virgin vegetation.

  • The term flora is used to denote plants of a particular region or period.

  • The species of animals are referred to as fauna.

This huge diversity in flora and fauna kingdom is due to the following factors.

  1. RELIEF

    1. LANDThe nature of land influences the type of vegetation. The fertile level is generally devoted to agriculture. The undulating and rough terrains are areas where grassland and woodlands develop and give shelter to a variety of wild life.

    2. SoilThe sandy soils of the desert support cactus and thorny bushes while wet, marshy, deltaic soils support mangroves and deltaic vegetation. The hill slopes with some depth of soil have conical trees.

  2. CLIMATE

    1. TemperatureThe character and extent of vegetation are mainly determined by temperature along with humidity in the air, precipitation and soil. On the slopes of the Himalayas and the hills of the Peninsula above the height of 915 meters, the fall in the temperature affects the types of vegetation and its growth.

    2. Photoperiod (Sunlight)The variation in duration of sunlight at different places is due to differences in latitude, altitude, season and duration of the day. Due to longer duration of sunlight, trees grow faster in summer.

    3. PrecipitationIn India almost, the entire rainfall is brought in by the advancing southwest monsoon (June to September) and retreating northeast monsoons. Areas of heavy rainfall have more dense vegetation as compared to other areas of less rainfall.Forests are renewable resources and play a major role in enhancing the quality of environment.

      1. They modify local climate,
      2. control soil erosion,
      3. regulate stream flow,
      4. support a variety of industries,
      5. provide livelihood for many communities
      6. offer panoramic or scenic view for recreation.
      7. It controls wind force and temperature and causes rainfall.
      8. It provides humus to the soil and shelter to the wild life.

    4. ECOSYSTEM All the plants and animals in an area are interdependent and interrelated to each other in their physical environment, forming an ecosystem. Human beings are also an integral part of the ecosystem.

      TYPES OF VEGETATIONThe following major types of vegetation may be identified in our country.
      1. Tropical Evergreen Forests
      2. Tropical Deciduous Forests
      3. Tropical Thorn Forests and Scrubs
      4. Montane Forests
      5. Mangrove Forests
      1. Tropical Evergreen Forests

        • RAINFALL-These forests are restricted to heavy rainfall areas of the Western Ghats and the island groups of Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar, upper parts of Assam and Tamil Nadu coast. They are at their best in areas having more than 200 cm of rainfall with a short dry season.

        • HEIGHT- The trees reach great heights up to 60 meters or even above.

        • KIND OF VEGETATION- Trees, shrubs, and creepers.

        • There is no definite time for trees to shed their leaves. As such, these forests appear green all the year round.

        • Important trees-ebony, mahogany, rosewood, rubber and cinchona.

        • Animals (found in this area)-elephants, monkey, lemur, deer, one horned rhinoceros (found in the jungles of Assam and West Bengal). Besides these animals plenty of birds, bats, sloth, scorpions and snails are also found in these jungles.
      2. Tropical Deciduous Forests (Monsoon Forests)
        • RAINFALL- They are spread over the region receiving rainfall between 200 cm and 70 cm.

        • Trees of this forest-type shed their leaves for about six to eight weeks in dry summer.Based on the availability of water, these forests are further divided into moist and dry deciduous.

          Moist deciduous forest-

        1. found in areas receiving rainfall between 200 and 100 cm.

        2. These forests exist, therefore, mostly in the eastern part of the country – northeastern states, along the foothills of the Himalayas, Jharkhand, West Orissa and Chhattisgarh, and on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats.

        3. Teak is the most dominant species of this forest. Bamboos, sal, shisham, sandalwood, khair, kusum, arjun, mulberry are other commercially important species.


          Dry deciduous forests-

        1. found in areas having rainfall between 100 cm and 70 cm.

        2. These forests are found in the rainier parts of the peninsular plateau and the plains of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

        3. There are open stretches in which Teak, Sal, Peepal, Neem grow. A large part of this region has been cleared for cultivation and some parts are used for grazing.

        4. The common animals found are lion, tiger, pig, deer and elephant. A huge variety of birds, lizards, snakes, and tortoises are also found here.

      3. Tropical Thorn Forests and Scrubs

        • RAINFALL- In regions with less than 70 cm of rainfall, the natural vegetation consists of thorny trees and bushes. This type of vegetation is found in the north-western part of the country including semi-arid areas of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.These forests give way to thorn forests and scrubs in arid areas.

        • Important plants- Acacias, palms, euphorbias and cacti are the main plant species.

        • Trees are scattered and have long roots penetrating deep into the soil to get moisture. The stems are succulent to conserve water. Leaves are mostly thick and small to minimize evaporation.

        • Animals (found in these region)-rats, mice, rabbits, fox, wolf, tiger, lion, wild ass, horses and camels.

      4. Montane Forests

        • The wet temperate type of forests is found between a height of 1000 and 2000 meters. Evergreen broad-leaf trees such as oaks and chestnuts predominate.

        • Between 1500 and 3000 meters, temperate forests containing coniferous trees like pine, deodar, silver fir, spruce and cedar, are found. These forests cover mostly the southern slopes of the Himalayas, places having high altitude in southern and north-east India.

        • At higher elevations, temperate grasslands are common. At high altitudes, generally more than 3,600 meters above sea-level, temperate forests and grasslands give way to the Alpine vegetation. Silver fir, junipers, pines and birches are the common trees of these forests. These are used extensively for grazing by nomadic tribes like the Gujjars and the Bakarwals.

        • At higher altitudes, mosses and lichens form part of tundra vegetation.

        • Animals (found in this region)-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.

      5. Mangrove Forests

        • The mangrove tidal forests are found in the areas of coasts influenced by tides. Mud and silt get accumulated on such coasts. Dense mangroves are the common varieties with roots of the plants submerged under water.

        • The deltas of the Ganga, the Mahanadi, the Krishana, the Godavari and the Kaveri are covered by such vegetation.

        • The deltas of the Ganga, the Mahanadi, the Krishana, the Godavari and the Kaveri are covered by such vegetation.

        • In the Ganga Brahamaputra delta, sundari trees are found, which provide durable hard timber.

        • Important Trees- Palm, coconut, keora, agar, also grow in some parts of the delta.

        • Animals (found in this region)-Royal Bengal Tiger is the famous animal in these forests. Turtles, crocodiles, gharials and snakes are also found in these forests.

WILDLIFE

  • India is also rich in its fauna. It has approximately 90,000 animal species. The country has about 2,000 species of birds. They constitute 13% of the world’s total. There are 2,546 species of fish, which account for nearly 12% of the world’s stock.

  • It also shares between 5 and 8 per cent of the world’s amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

  • 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, which live in 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. Indian bison, nilgai (blue bull), chousingha (four horned antelope), gazel and different species of deer are some other animals found in India.

  • 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 Sundarbans of West Bengal and the Himalayan region.

  • Ladakh’s freezing high altitudes are a home to yak, the shaggy horned wild ox weighing around one tonne, the Tibetan antelope, the bharal (blue sheep), wild sheep, and the kiang (Tibetan wild ass).

  • 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.

To protect the flora and fauna of the country, the government has taken many steps.

  1. Fourteen biosphere reserves have been set up in the country to protect flora and fauna. Four out of these, the Sunderbans in the West Bengal, Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand, the Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu and the Nilgiris (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu) have been included in the world network of Biosphese reserves.

  2. Financial and technical assistance is provided to many Botanical Gardens by the government since 1992.

  3. Project Tiger, Project Rhino, Project Great Indian Bustard and many other Eco-developmental projects have been introduced.

  4. 89 National Parks, 490 Wildlife sanctuaries and Zoological gardens are set up to take care of Natural heritage.
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