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Learning Outcomes

  • Learns about types and classification of forests in India
  • Learns about the threats to forest ecosystem
  • Knows more about the conservation strategies for forest resources


Have you ever heard that there are nearly 16 types of forests in India covering approximately 24.16% of the total area and more than 1550 large dams in India? India is rich in flora and fauna.

The forests in India are full of different types of plants, animals and birds. A safari through the forests can be an unforgettable and enriching experience.

Unfortunately, an average of 26000 sq. km. of forests is converted into agricultural land all over India. Deforestation and timber extraction have exceeded the limits causing threats to the entire ecosystem. The government and Non Governmental Organisations have worked out different strategies for maintaining the forests.

Key words

Forest, Ecosystem, Deforestation, Afforestation, Reforestation, Social forestry, Agroforestry


1.3.1 Types and classification of forests in India

Forests are important renewable resources. The Forest varies in composition and diversity and can contribute substantially to the economic development of any country. Forests in India are very diverse in their composition with a long evolutionary and geological history, occurring under diverse climatic and edaphic conditions. The forest types of India were classified for the first time in 1936 by Sir HG Champion and compiled his monumental work Preliminary Survey of Forest Type of India and Burma. Champion and Seth classified India’s forests into 16 major types and about 221 sub-type groups which are published in A Revised Survey of the Forest type of Indian 1968. The detailed classification of forest types in India is based on climate, physiognomy, species composition, phenology, topography, soil factors, altitude, aspect, and biotic factors. The forests have been classified into six “major groups”, ranging from tropical to alpine. These six major groups have been further classified into 16 sub-groups on the basis of temperature and moisture regimes.

Table 1.3.1 The major forest types of India (based on Champion and Seth, 1968)

Major Forest Groups Sub Groups
  1. Moist Tropical forests
Group1: Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests
Group 2: Tropical Semi-evergreen Forests
Group 3: Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests
Group 4: Littoral and Swamp Forests
      II. Dry Tropical forests Group 5: Tropical dry deciduous forests
Group 6: Tropical thorn forests
Group 7: Tropical dry evergreen forests
     III. Montane Subtropical Forests Group 8: Subtropical broad-leaved hill forests
Group 9: Subtropical pine forests
Group 10: Subtropical dry evergreen forests
     IV. Montane Temperate Forests Group 11: Montane wet temperate forests
Group 12: Himalayan moist temperate forests
Group 13: Himalayan dry temperate forests
      V. Sub alpine forests Group 14 Sub alpine forests
     VI. Alpine Forests Group 15: Moist-Alpine Scrub
Group 16: Dry-Alpine Scrub Moist Tropical Forest

Group 1: Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests

These forests are dense and show 30-45m tall canopy structure with four or five strata, generally found in regions having rainfall in the range of 2000 to > 3000 mm per year. The diversity of tree species is high in these forests. The forests are discontinuously distributed mainly along the Western Ghats, north-eastern India and Andaman and Nicobar.

Group 2: Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forest

These forests occur in areas adjoining tropical wet evergreen, and form a transition be-tween the evergreen and moist deciduous forests. Lower canopy is evergreen, whereas canopy species are deciduous for short periods during the dry seasons. Tropical Semi-evergreen Forest type comprises 13.79% of the Indian forest types. These are dense, multi-strata, 24-36m in height. Rainfall ranges from 1500-2500mm per year. The canopies are not continuous and species richness is lower as compared to evergreen forests.

Group 3: Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests

These forests are common in areas where rainfall is 1000 to 2000 mm with a dry season of three to four months. Dominant trees are deciduous, lower story trees are usually evergreen. The trees shed their leaves in winter months, again become flushed in March-April. These forests comprise 19.73% of India’s forest types (FSI 2011). These forests are widely distributed covering both southern and northern states including Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, and Uttarakhand. These forests are usually 2 to 3 strata with a much lower number of species as compared with the tropical evergreen and semi evergreen forests. The canopy trees are light demanding, middle ones are shade tolerant species of shrubs and young trees, and on ground floor are herbs and saplings. Climbers are abundant.

Group 4: Littoral and Swamp Forests 

These forests consist of evergreen species of varying densities and height, usually associated with mesic habitats. These forests are mostly in their developmental stage and are serial in nature.

  1. The littoral forests occur along the coast in the Andaman and Nicobar, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu. The most characteristic species is the tall and evergreen Casuarina on sandy beaches and dunes along the sea face. In Andaman, the forests are dominated by Manilkara littoralis.
  2. The tidal and swamp forests (mangrove scrub) are dominated by several evergreen and semi evergreen species in deltas of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra rivers.
  3. Mangroves are found along the east and west coasts of India, the Andaman and Nico-bar Islands, the Gulf of Kachchh and Khambat (Gujarat). Sundarban (40% in West Bengal) is the largest mangrove in the world. Mangrove forests are generally dominated by trees of the genera – Rhizophora, Avicennia, Sonneratia, Bruguiera, and Ceriops, along with some genera like Heritiera and Xylocarpus. On the drier areas within the salt water mangrove scrub/forests are found palm swamp.
  4. Tropical fresh water swamps such as Myristica swamp forest are found in Travancore, Kerala, and contain species such as Myristica spp., Lagerstroemia speciosa and the like.
  5. The species like Baringtonia spp, and Syzygium cumini are found in swamp forests of UP and West Bengal. Dry Tropical Forests 

Group 5: Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests

These are the largest forest type of India covering about 38.2% of the forest area of the country. Tropical dry forests occur in climates exhibiting a marked seasonality in rainfall and prolonged drought period over the annual cycle. These forests consist of trees less than 25m high, with a light demanding canopy consisting of deciduous trees, from Kanyakumari to the foothills of the Himalaya in low rainfall areas of 800 to 1200mm; large areas of these forests are suitable habitats for wildlife. Dry teak and dry sal communities predominate in the southern and northern regions, respectively.

Group 6: Tropical Thorn Forests

These forests are found in low rainfall areas (200 to 800mm) of northern India, peninsular India and central India. Moisture availability is limited for plant growth. The trees experience prolonged dry periods. The tree height ranges from six to nine meters. Southern Tropical Thorn Forests Occur in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and A. P. In south India, import-ant species are Acacia chundra, Acacia planifrons and Acacia catechu. Northern Tropical

Thorn Forests occur in semiarid regions of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, northern Gujarat, M. P., U. P., and Delhi.

  1. These forests are open, consisting of short trees, generally belonging to thorny tree species. The desert thorn type consists of Acacia senegal, Prosopis spicigera, Prosopis cineraria, Acacia leucophloea, Acacia nilotica, Ziziphus spp, and Salvadora spp. Acacia tortilis and Prosopis chilensis have been widely planted in this region.
  2. The desert dune scrub are very open, irregular formations of stunted trees and bushes, are sparse and thorny. The main species are Acacia senegal, Prosopis spicigera, Acacia Arabica, Tamarix aphylla, Salvadora oleoides.

Group 7: Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests 

The forests are restricted in distribution to Karnataka coast, and also reported from the east coast in A. P.. These are low growing forests; trees are of 9-12 m height, and form a complete canopy. Most conspicuous trees are Manilkara hexandra, Memecylon edule along with Diaspyros, Eugenia, Chloroxylon, Albizzia amara. There is a high diversity of trees, shrubs and herbs in these forests. Montane Subtropical Forests

Group 8: Subtropical Broad Leaved Hill Forests 

These forests are of the following types:

  1. Southern Subtropical Broad Leaved Hill Forests in south India are found in the hill slopes and tops at about 1000 to 1700m height in Nilgiris, Palani, Tirunelveli, and Mercara hills. Main trees are Calophyllum elatum, Eugenia spp., Dalbergia latifolia, Anogeissus latifolia, Emblica officinalis, Olea dioca, and Phoenix humilis.
  2. Central Indian Subtropical Hill Forests: Hill top forests occur above 1200m in Madhya Pradesh (Pachmarhi), Bihar and Odisha. In Pachmarhi hills, Manilkara hexandra, Mangifera, Syzygium cumini are conspicuous trees.
  3. Northern Subtropical Broad Leaved Hill Forests: Occur in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland Sikkim, and west Bengal represented by east Himalayan subtropical wet hill forests. At altitude 1000-to 2000m, they occur in Khasi, Jainti and adjacent hills, dense evergreen forests, rarely exceeding 20m height. Important tree species are Quercus, Castanopsis, Alnus, Prunus, Betula and Schima. There is heavy growth of epiphytic mosses, ferns and phanerogams. Subtropical broad leaved hill forest dominated by Quercus serrata, Eugenia praecox, Schima wallichii,Rhus succidanea are located at Imphal, Manipur.

Group 9: Sub-Tropical Pine Forests 

Sub-tropical chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) forests occur throughout the central and western Himalaya between 1000 to 1800m; distributed in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab and Uttarakhand. Pinus roxburghii along with broad leaved species is the main characteristic of these forests. Climbers and bamboos are absent.

Group 10: Sub-Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests 

These forests are distributed in Bhabar tract, Shiwalik hills, and the foothills of western Himalaya. In Punjab, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh, Olea cuspidata is found on alluvial ground of wider valleys. In Jammu and Kashmir, the dominant species of these scrub forests are Olea cuspidate, Acacia modesta, and Dodonaea viscosa Montane Temperate Forest

Group 11: Montane Wet Temperate Forest 

The southern Montane wet temperate forests are closed evergreen forests, trees here are mostly short boled (not exceeding 6m), and highly branched. The branches are clothed with mosses, ferns and other epiphytes and woody climbers are common. The northern Montane wet temperate forests are a characteristic feature of the eastern Himalaya and are found between 1800 m and 3000 m elevation in high rainfall areas (>2000mm rainfall).

Group 12: Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests 

These forests extend to the whole length of the Himalayan region between the sub-tropical pine forests and sub-alpine forests. Altitude ranges from 1500m to 3300m. These are concentrated in the central and western Himalaya, except in areas where rainfall is below 1000 mm. They are distributed in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Darjeeling and some districts of West Bengal, Assam, and Sikkim.

  1. Several species of oak predominate in the temperate forests including Quercus leucotrichophora, Quercus. Floribunda, Quercus incana, Quercus semecarpifolia, Quercus dilatate and Qlarginosa. All oak species in the Himalayan region are evergreen showing leaf fall in summer, but are never leafless. There are four strata, 25-30m height, tree canopy is dense, herbaceous layer not well developed, grasses generally lacking, and rich in epiphytes.
  2. Most Cedrus deodara forests form pure stands, canopy is fairly complete, boles are straight and tall (30-40m). There are scattered oaks and Rhododendron under the conifers. The evergreen Cedrus deodara forest surrounding the Khajjiar lake located at 1920 m above mean sea level in Khajjair, Chamba district, Himachal Pradesh in western Himalaya.
  3. As the altitude increases, the upper form consisting of Abies pindrow, Picea smithiana, and Quercus semecarpifolia become dominant.
  4. The eastern Himalayan hills are occupied by Quercus lineata, Quercus lamellosa, Quercus pachyphylla, Rhododendron spp., Tsuga dumosa, Picea spinulosa and Abies densa.
  5. Cupressus torulosa is a conspicuous species found on limestone rocks from Chamba (Himachal Pradesh) to the Aka hills at 1800 to 2800 m.

Group 13: Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests

Conifers predominate, distributed on 1700 to 3000m altitude, in the inner ranges of the Himalayas, Rainfall is usually less than 1000mm, mostly received as snow in winter months. They are distributed in Kashmir, Ladakh, Lahaul, Chamba, inner Garhwal, and Sikkim.

  1. Coniferous forests are tall (30-35m) and have evergreen canopy.
  2. These forests consist of both coniferous and broad-leaved species. In the western Himalayas, the characteristic species are Pinus gerardiana, Cedrus deodara and Juniperus. At higher elevation, Abies pindrow, and Pinus wallichiana are found.
  3. In the eastern Himalaya, the common species are from Abies and Picea. In higher hills, Juniperus wallichiana is common.
  4. Locally, between 2500 and 4000 m elevation, a few other species like Larix griffithiana, Populus eupheretica, Salix spp., Hippophoe spp. and Myricaria spp. also occur. Sub-Alpine Forests

Group 14: Sub-Alpine Forests

The subalpine forests occur throughout the Himalaya above 3000 m elevation up to the tree limit., rainfall 83-600mm. The forests are mainly evergreen Rhododendron. Tall trees are conifers; Betula utilis is present as the largest deciduous tree and associated with genera like Quercus semecarpifolia, Sorbus, and Rhododendron sp.

  1. Western Himalaya sub-alpine forests are reported in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. In the western Himalaya, there are two types of forests (i) Abies spectabilis and Betula utilis, (ii) west Himalayan sub-alpine birch/fir forest.
  2. In the eastern Himalayas, these forests occur above 3000m and are distributed in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and West Bengal. There is a predominance of Abies densa and Betula utilis, and Rhododendron spp. These are climax formations, self-generating with marked resilience.  Alpine Forest

Group 15: Moist- Alpine Scrub 

Moist Alpine Scrub occurs throughout the Himalayas, above timber line to 5,500m altitude, composed entirely of species of Rhododendron with some birch (Betula) and other deciduous trees. The tree trunks are short and highly branched, moss and ferns cover the ground. A thick layer of humus is present and soil is generally wet.

  1. In Kumaun, Uttrakhand, Betula utilis and Rhododendron campanulatum scrub forest occur. Rhododendron- Lonicera association occurs in Uttrakhand, in the inner Himalayas.
  2. In eastern Himalayas, dense Rhododendron thickets occur at 3350-4600m altitude. These forests are reported in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and west Bengal.

Group 16: Dry- Alpine Scrub

It is a xerophytic formation, having predominance of dwarf shrubs; rainfall < 370mm per year. Characteristic plants are Juniperus wallichiana, Lonicera spp and Potentilla spp. Vegetation along the streams is composed of Salix, Myricaria, and Hippophae rhamnoides. These scrub forests are distributed in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, and Arunachal Pradesh. In the eastern Himalayas, Juniperus recurva and Juniperus wallichiana occur at an altitude ranging from 3000 to 4600m.

1.3.2 New Classification of Forest Types of India

Recently, a new classification of forest types has been proposed, reflecting the present eco-logical, climatic, bio-geographic and edaphic influences on the vegetation composition and stand formation. (CFRE 2013; Bahuguna et al. 2016). India’s forest types are very diverse in their compositions with a long evolutionary and geological history, occurring under many climatic and edaphic conditions. They have been undergoing significant changes in the composition of forests since the forest types were revised by Champion and Seth (1968). The revised classification of forests has been based on the field survey covering more than 200 forest types and subtypes representing very diverse climatic and edaphic conditions throughout the country. Data were collected from the field surveys in terms of forest types, basal area, importance value index, stem density and diversity indexes including similarity indexes. Impact of climate change on the vegetation has been critically examined. In the proposed new classification, 10 major groups and 48 sub-groups have been identified. The study has reported many changes occurring at species and forest subtypes levels. There are some positive and negative changes in different forest types. Some trends in the new classification of forest types are summarized as follows:

  1. The species level changes were observed largely in Shorea robusta (Sal), Tectona grandis (Teak) and Bamboo forests with regard to their distribution and species density. The study has revealed that teak is found absent in very moist areas.
  2. In central India, the decline of Shorea robusta (Sal) and occurrence of dry deciduous species, fragmentation and changes in the species composition due to anthropogenic and climate changes were noticed.
  3. The vegetation composition, particularly on the alpine flora is experiencing the effect of climate change.
  4. There are changes in species composition of Shola forests and evergreen forests.
  5. The forests in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat have shown positive changes in the forest composition and density.
  6. Analysis based on national level data showing change in temperature and rainfall patterns reveal that many forests are moving towards drier conditions, particularly the temperate forests. There are changes in the pattern of distributions of Oaks and Conifers.
  7. The blue pine (Pinus wallichiana) found in the higher elevations up to 1700 m is now found in still higher elevations up to 2700 m showing the shift in the tree lines towards higher elevations.

At the beginning of the 20th century about 30% of land in India was covered with forests. But by the year 2015 the forest cover has been reduced to 21.34%. In 2015, of the existing forests, about 2.61% were very dense forests (canopy cover 70% or more), 9.59% moderately dense forests (canopy cover 40% or more but less than 70%), 9.14% open forests (canopy cover 10% or more but less than 40%), and 1.26% scrub forests (canopy cover less than 10%) (FSI 2015). Mizoram, with 88.93 % of forest cover has the highest forest cover in percentage terms, followed by Lakshadweep (84.56%). Madhya Pradesh has the largest total forest cover (77, 462 km2) in India, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (67,248 km2) and Chhattisgarh (55,586 km2).

Threats to forest ecosystem

Forests are among the most biodiverse and valuable terrestrial ecosystems on the planet. However, maintaining forests and their biodiversity is both complex and sensitive, and natural and human impacts on forest ecosystems is making this increasingly difficult.

Over exploitation

Over 72% of species are threatened by over-exploitation and 62% by agriculture out of the 9,000 species listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Overexploitation of the unsustainable harvest of species from the wildis putting more species on an ex-tinction pathway than any other threat. The expansion and intensification of agriculture (the production of food, fodder, fibre and fuel crops; livestock; aquaculture; and the cultiva-tion of trees) is the second-largest driver of biodiversity loss. Hunting is a threat to more than 1,600 species, including many large carnivores such as tigers and snow leopards. Un-sustainable logging is driving the decline of more than 4,000 species, such as Australia’s Leadbeater’s possu, while more than 1,000 species, including southern bluefin tuna, are losing out to excessive fishing pressure. Land change for crop farming and timber plantations imperils more than 5,300 species, such as the far eastern curlew, while the north-ern hairy-nosed wombat is one of more than 2,400 species affected by livestock farming and aquaculture.

Timber extraction

There has been unlimited exploitation of timber for commercial use due to increased industrial demand. Timber extraction has significant effect on forest and tribal people.


Deforestation is a serious form of environmental degradation. It is a global phenomenon and the global assault on forest continues to be present.

The forest occupies more than a quarter of the world land. They are not just the source of timber wood but they also perform social and ecological functions. They have the wealth of lands and animals of various kind; they utilize and accumulate carbon and thus stabilize the global climate. Deforestation means clearance of forest by human activities which take place in the following manner:

  1. By reckless and ruthless cutting of trees on the forest areas.
  2. By forest fires set by farmers for plantation purpose in forest areas.
  3. Air pollution.

Thus it is because of human activities that forests are exploited and damaged.

1.3.3 Mining

Major effects of mining operations on forests:

  • Mining from shallow deposits is done by surface mining while that from deep deposits is done by sub-surface mining. It leads to degradation of lands and loss of top soil. It is estimated that about eighty-thousand-hectares of land is under stress of mining activities in India
  • Mining leads to drying up perennial water sources like springs and streams in mountainous areas.
  • Mining and other associated activities remove vegetation along with underlying soil mantle, which results in destruction of topography and landscape in the area. Large scale deforestation has been reported in Mussorie and Dehradun valleys due to indiscriminate mining.
  • The forest area has declined at an average rate of 33% and the increase in non-forest area due to mining activities has resulted in relatively unstable zones leading to landslides.
  • Indiscriminate mining in forests of Goa since 1961 has destroyed more than 50000 ha. of forest land. Coal mining in Jharia, Raniganj and Singrauli areas has caused extensive deforestation in Jharkhand.
  • Mining of magnetite and soapstone has destroyed 14 ha. of forest in hilly slopes of Khirakot, Kosi valley and Almora.
  • Mining of radioactive minerals in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are posing similar threats of deforestation.
  • The rich forests of Western Ghats are also facing the same threat due to mining projects for excavation of copper, chromites, bauxite and magnetite.

Effects of dams on forests and tribal people

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru referred to dam and valley projects as “Temples of modern India”. These big dams and river valley projects have multi-purpose uses. However, these dams are also responsible for the destruction of forests. They are responsible for degradation of catchment areas, loss of flora and fauna, increase of water borne diseases, disturbance in forest ecosystems, rehabilitation and resettlement of tribal peoples. India has more than 1550 large dams, the maximum being in the state of Maharashtra (more than 600), followed by Gujarat (more than 250) and Madhya Pradesh (130).

1.3.4 Environmental Impact of Large Dams

Large dams have led to extensive decimation of forest due to submergence by reservoirs and the dereservation and, clearance of forest lands for the resettlement of osteer. Both forests and good farmland have been appropriated by reservoirs, canals, and other infra-structure connected with river valley projects. Rivers and the ecosystems they support are unique. Irreparable environmental damage is caused by the construction of large-scale dams. Some of these are considered here.

  1. Change in downstream morphology and water quality
  1. Rivers provide energy for a number of vital processes such as transport of nitrogen, organic matter and nutrient rich silt, oxygen enrichment, and entertainment of nutrients in bottom pediments in downstream entries, deltasand coastal areas, upon which the health of the fishes is dependent. Any water management scheme that reduces runoff by more than 25% will result in negative effects on coastal and estuarine fisheries and subsequent depletion of fish catches.
  2. Dams trap the sediment eroded from soils and rocks by the river. Clear water below the dam then seeks to recapture its lost sediment and erodes the soil on the bed and banks downstream from the dam. Loss of sediment is particularly important on the delta of the river as it leads to further eroding of the coast. Increased sediment flow also adversely affects the dam’s capacity for hydro power generation.
  3. Flowing water undergoes rapid thermal, chemical and physical changes. Deterioration of water quality is said to increase with retention time due to loss of dissolved oxygen.
  1. Loss of forest and biodiversity

The most dramatic ecological effect of a dam project is the flooding of vast areas of forest wetlands, cultivated land and wildlife. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 have been flooded by such dams world wide.

Good forest cover is essential for curbing soil erosion, yet catchment areas of reservoirs usually experience rapid deforestation, leading to landslides, heavier water flow into the reservoirs, and eventually, siltation processes which ironically threaten the viability of river valley projects themselves. High siltation rates have dramatically reduced the life expectancy to be unsuitable for agriculture.

  1. Salinity and pollution

Dams cause massive evaporation loss, resulting in increasing salinity to dangerous levels. Reduction in the flow of water and silt caused by dams has a negative impact on downstream ecosystems and it also adversely affects the fertility of agricultural land. Delta areas suffer from ingress of sea water. Reduced flow of water in many rivers also has increased the level of pollution, making river water unusable for humans and animals.

  1. Earthquakes

Large dams built along fault lines or in geologically unstable regions can trigger earthquakes due to the pressure exerted by the weight of water in reservoir and the dam itself, which in turn can destroy the dam leading to wide-spread flooding. This danger was evidenced by devastating earthquake at Koyanagar near the Koyna dam reservoir in Maharashtra in 1967. Although India has already experienced dam induced earthquakes, the government is pushing ahead with its plans to build the Tehu dam in a seismically sensitive region, the Garhwal Himalayas in the face of opposition by experts and local people and despite the warning sign of a major earthquake in the region in 1992.

  1. Design / Construction problems

Dams may burst even in the absence of tremor due to poor construction, as in the case of the Machu dam (Gujarat) which bust in 1979 leading to widespread destruction and death caused by flooding. Large dams and their reservoir disrupt local ecosystem in multiple ways and those effects cannot be easily measured in terms of economic costs and benefits. As in the case of forests, loss of biodiversity is not factored into cost benefit analyses.

  1. Resettlement

People who lose their homes and lands be-cause of large scale development projects are called environmental refugees. Displacement takes place very easily because it involves largely tribals. These tribal are mostly uneducated and are unaware of their rights. They are forced to moved around without considering the economic and psychological impacts of such action on them. Hence displacement takes place without the knowledge of the affected population, who do not have any sense of participation in the project nor do they get any share of the benefits. This problem of displacement is compounded by the fact that even land records of the displaced population are not up to date and hence there is no guarantee that the benefits will reach the right per-son.

1.3.5 Conservation strategies

Conservation is the preservation and protection of natural assets for the future generations. It incorporates keeping up with variety of species, qualities, and biological systems, as well as elements of the climate, like nutrient cycling. Some of the conservation measures practiced in India and other parts of the world are as follows:

  1. Increase in area of forest plantation: Planting of trees can be made in vacant or unused lands and waste, degraded and marginal lands, especially on road side, along railway tracts, on contours and on land not suited for agricultural production. Planting trees outside forest areas will reduce pressure on forests for timber, fodder and fuel wood. Apart from this, the deforested areas need to be reforested.
  2. Developing alternative sources and promoting substitutes: It has become necessary to find alternative fuels as well as raw materials to manufacture paper, sports goods, packing cases, furniture and beams used in buildings. Research is going on to develop alternate sources; in some cases, plastics and composite materials have been successful in replacing the use of timber.
  3. Increase the area of forest permanently reserved for timber production: The most serious impediment to sustainable forest management is the lack of dedicated forests specifically set aside for timber production.
  4. Developing a reliable mechanism of information base and regular monitoring: Knowledge of how much forest, where it is and what it is comprised of seems to be straightforward. However, surprisingly, this most basic information is not always available. It is not possible to properly manage a forest ecosystem without first understanding it. Remote sensing technologies make it feasible and affordable to identify hotspots of deforestation.
  5. Establishing an effective system of fighting forest fires.
  6. Strictly enforcing laws to deal with unauthorized cutting of trees.
  7. Promoting agro-forestry and social forestry: Agroforestry is the interaction of agriculture and trees, including the agricultural use of trees. This comprises trees on farms and in agricultural landscapes, farming in forests and along forest margins and tree-crop production, including cocoa, coffee, rubber and oil palm. Rural people partly meet their needs for fire wood and small timber by growing fast growing trees planted within the limits of their village, along the footpaths, roadsides, along-side railway tracks, side roads or canals and streams, boundaries of fields and empty spaces. The aim of social forestry is to meet the needs of fuel, fodder, fruits, timber and other requirements of local people.
  8. Participatory forest management and rights: All stakeholders with an interest in the fate of the forest should be involved in planning, management and benefit sharing. The balance of rights can be tilted strongly toward society in the form of publicly owned strictly protected areas. As of now much of the world’s tropical forests are state owned but community participation in forest ownership and management needs to be encouraged. Moreover, the rights of indigenous forest dwellers and others who depend on intact forests must be up-held by recognition of traditional laws of the indigenous peoples as indigenous rights. This will address the conflicts between customary and statutory laws and regulations related to forest ownership and use of natural resources while ensuring conservation of forest resources. Keeping this in view various state governments in India have been implementing Joint Forest Management Program after successful implementation in West Bengal and Haryana in 1970’s.


The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) defines reforestation as an establishment of a forest cover in a location where the forests have been cleared in the recent past, usually to use the land for activities like agriculture or mining. Reforestation is also important for a number of other reasons including the fact that 1.6 billion people worldwide rely on forests for their livelihoods. Additionally, forests have been shown to have benefits related to anti-erosion, flood control, water security, soil protection/production and the maintenance of biodiversity.


Afforestation stands for the establishment of forests where previously there have been none, or where forests have been missing for a long time. The IPCC Guidelines define afforestation as the “planting of new forests on lands which, historically, have not contained forests.”

Table 1.3.1 Difference between afforestation and reforestation

Afforestation Reforestation
Afforestation is the construction of a completely new forest in unused land, where no forest existed. Reforestation is the reestablishment of a forest by planting trees in existing forest land.
Afforestation is meant for growing trees in new areas. Reforestation is done in an area where a forest was destroyed.
Here, only one sapling is needed to plant for a single tree. Here, two saplings are planted to eliminate each chopped down tree.
is done to increase forest areas and to eliminate the effects of deforestation. is done to eradicate the negative impacts of burning forests for cultivation.
Afforestation may lead to the destruction of the grassland ecosystem. Reforestation needs more labour and, thus, is found to be costly.

1.3.6 Social Forestry

Social forestry is forestry outside conventional forests, which primarily aims at providing continuous flow of goods and services for the needs of local people. Social forestry was first recognized as an important component of forestry development in the Interim Report of the National Commission on Agriculture 1976 and later in National Forest Policy 1988. The objective is to organize local communities in their struggle for socio-economic development and to integrate economic gains in the distribution of their benefits to the rural society. It includes raising wind breaks on dry farm lands, planting trees along roadsides, planting in village common lands and waste lands, along railway lines and canal banks, on common community lands like religious places, educational areas and panchayat lands etc.

Benefits of social forestry include

  • Fuel, fodder, timber, supplementary food and income from surplus forest products and tree derived resources for rural people.
  • It can form villagers into a well-knit community and increase social cohesion.
  • Reclamation of waste lands and degraded lands along with soil conservation and green cover.
  • Protection of agricultural fields from winds and dust storms.
  • Check desertification.

1.3.7 Agroforestry

Agroforestry is the management and integration of trees, crops and/or livestock on the same plot of land. It combines agriculture and forestry by planting viable tree shelter belts along agricultural lands. It is a dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management system that diversifies and sustains production in order to increase social, economic and environmental benefits for land users. Agroforestry is derived from the concept of ecology and places an emphasis on interaction between different plant species. It results in higher overall yields and reduced operational costs.

Benefits of agroforestry

  • Maintains soil organic matter and biological activity at levels satisfactory for soil fertility.
  • Controls runoff and soil erosion and maintains required soil moisture.
  • Maintains more favourable soil physical properties than agriculture, through organic matter maintenance and the effects of tree roots.
  • Promotes more closed nutrient cycling than agriculture and hence to more efficient use of nutrients.
  • Nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs can substantially increase nitrogen inputs to agroforestry systems.
  • Decomposition of trees and pruning can substantially contribute to maintenance of soil fertility.
  • Helps in income diversification thereby reducing agricultural dependency of farmers.

Table 1.3.2 Distinction between Social Forestry and Agroforestry

Social Forestry Agroforestry
Social forestry is a plantation made on lands outside conventional forest areas for the benefit of rural and urban communities, with objectives to supply fuel wood, to divert cow dung from village hearths to village fields, small timber for housing and agricultural implements and fodder for cattle of the rural population, protection of agriculture by creation of diverse ecosystem and arresting wind and water erosion, provide raw material for village cottage industries and improve scenic value in rural and urban areas. Agroforestry is a sustainable land management system that increases the overall production, combines agricultural crops, tree crops and forest plants and/or animals simultaneously or sequentially, and applies management practices that are compatible with the cultural patterns of the local population.
It is thus the forestry of the people, by the people and for the people. It is a system which is rather localized in its concept for managing the unit of land for maximising production of agricultural crop and forest trees complimentary with each other.
Planting of trees on massive scales is done on vacant land, community land, roadside railway track and even degraded reserve forests. Helps to eradicate poverty especially among land less and marginal rural people by providing them job potential. Agroforestry is practiced mostly in farmers’ field/own land.
Mainly trees and shrubs are to be used to harvest multiple products. It involves integration of two or more than two components in the same unit of land.
Social forestry is primarily a government-based programme that aims at increasing the forest area by rehabilitating wastelands while producing biomass both for industrial and local uses. Agroforestry involves the rural awakening towards self-sufficiency by producing maximum biomass per unit area, fulfilling needs of food, fodder, fuel wood etc..


  • Forest is an important renewable resource.
  • Over exploitation, timber extraction, deforestation are the threats to forest ecosystem.
  • Afforestation is the construction of a completely new forest in unused land, having no forest formerly.
  • Reforestation is the reestablishment of a forest by planting trees in exist-ing forest land.
  • Deforestation refers to the destruction of forests for agriculture, industri-alization, and urbanization.
  • Social forestry is forestry outside conventional forests, which primarily aims at providing continuous flow of goods and services for the needs of local people
  • Agroforestry is the management and integration of trees, crops and/or livestock on the same plot of land.

Objective type questions

  1. Why should we conserve forest and wild life?
  2. What are reserved and protected forests also referred to as?
  3. Who started the Chipko Movement in the Himalayas to protect the forest?
  4. What percent of land in India is covered with forest and trees?
  5. What types of land all over India, measuring over 26,000 sq km of forest area have been converted into, according to Forest Survey of India
  6. What is the name given to forests exclusively used for the conservation of forest and wildlife resources?
  7. What is the approximate percentage of total forests in India declared as protect-ed forest by the department of forest?
  8. Which forests are also called Monsoon Forests?

Answer to Objective type questions

  1. To maintain ecosystem
  2. Permanent Forest estate
  3. Sunder Lal Bahuguna
  4. 24.16%
  5. Agricultural land
  6. Reserved Forest
  7. 33%
  8. Tropical deciduous forest

Self assessment Questions

  1. Forests are …………………….. resources
  2. List out the major groups of soil
  3. Describe tropical wet evergreen forests.
  4. Differentiate evergreen and deciduous forests.
  5. Explain the features of tropical thorn forests.
  6. Coniferous trees are found in ……………………… .
  7. Comment on the new forest classification in India.
  8. Write an essay on the threats to forests.

Suggested Reading



  1. Rakshit, S. K., Forest resource management. Abhijeet Publications. 2007.
  2. Mitra, A., Mangrove forests in India (p. 1). Springer International Publish¬ing. 2020.
  3. Misra, Harikesh Narain, and R. L. Dwivedi, eds. Managing Natural Resourc-es: Focus on Land and Water; Felicitation Volume in Honour of Professor R.L. Dwivedi. Delhi: PHI Learning, 2014.
  4. Eyle, Alexandra. Charles Lathrop Pack: Timberman, Forest Conservationist, and Pioneer in Forest Education. Syracuse, N.Y: ESP College Foundation, Inc., Col-lege of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, 1992.