India is quite rich in forest wealth. About one-fifth of its land is under forests. - Our forests are mostly in the hilly area or over the plateau. The plains and the large areas in valleys are under cultivation. The area under the forests in India is not sufficient. About one-third area of the land surface should be under the forests to keep up the ecological balance. We should avoid deforestation and grow more trees to keep up the balance. Our forests can be divided into five types.
Evergreen Tropical forests
Thorny Forests or Desert Forests
1. Evergreen Tropical Forests :
The trees which remain in leaf throughout the year are called evergreen trees. These trees do not shed leaves in a particular season. The areas which have heavy rainfall and hot climate are called tropical. Evergreen tropical forests are found in the Western Ghats in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The hilly areas of Assam and West Bengal also have Evergreen Tropical Forests. Trees like ebony, rosewood, sandal wood, bamboo and khair grow in these forests. Wild animals such as tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, leopards, panthers and deer are found in these forests.
2. Deciduous Forests :
The trees in these forests have broad leaves, which they drop on the onset of winter. These trees put on new leaves in spring. These forests are called Deciduous Forests or Tropical Monsoon Forests. Such forests are found in the Eastern Ghats, Eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, Deccan Plateau, the Vindhyas, the Satpuras, foot-hills of the Himalayas and the Shivaliks. Trees like sal, teak, sheesham and peepal grow in these forests. The wood of these trees is hard and is used for making furniture. The States of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have such forests.
3. Thorny Forests :
Such forests grow in the areas which have scanty rainfall. These trees and bushes have thick bark, long roots and few leaves. These plants can withstand long dry spell. Such forests are found in Western parts of Rajasthan, Southern parts of Punjab and Haryana and some parts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. These forests are also called Desert Forests. Trees like kikar, babul and cactus grow in these forests. Wild berries and thorny bushes also grow here.
4. Coniferous Forests : The coniferous trees grow in cold climate. The trees have needle like leaves and can bear cold weather. These trees bear cones in place of flowers and fruits. So they are called conifer trees. Trees like pine, deodar, birch, fir and spruce grow in these forests. These forests are also known as the Mountain Forests or the Himalayan Forests. Conifer trees grow at a height of 1600 meters or above in the Himalayas and in the Nilgiri Hills in the South.
The Himalayan Region has different kinds of forests depending on the height and rainfall of the area. The foot-hills of the Himalayas have thick deciduous forests. The middle ranges have mixed forests of deciduous and coniferous trees. Still higher ranges have no forests. Only some shrubs, bushes and grass is found there in summer.
5. Mangrove Forests :
On the delta of the big rivers silt is deposited by the rivers or the tidal waves of the ocean. Such places become marshy. This encourages growth of dense forests. These forests are also called Tidal Forests. Mangrove and sundri trees grow in these forests. Such forests are found in the deltas of Ganga, Mahanadi, Godavari and Krishna. The delta of Ganga is known as Sunderbans due to the growth of sundri trees. The famous Bengal tiger is found in Sunderbans.
Importance of Forests
Forests are very useful in the life of man. They help us in many ways. They provide us shade and keep the place cool. Without forests most of the areas would have been deserts.
1. Forests purify the air. The trees break up carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen in the presence of sun light. They consume carbon as their food and release oxygen in the atmosphere. Thus the trees are helpful in keeping the air clean.
2. Forests provide us fuel and timber. In many parts of India wood is used as fuel for cooking food and for many other purposes. Timber is used for making houses, furniture and railway coaches.
3. Hundreds of industries depend on forests, for example, paper industry, plywood industry, paint, varnish, rubber goods, match sticks and many other industries.
4. Forests cause rains. Trees cool down the winds which have water vapor. -Thus the forests help in causing rainfall. Forest areas have more rainfall than the other areas.
5. Forests prevent floods. The roots of the trees soak a lot of rain water. The rain water does not flow down quickly and cause floods.
6. Forests prevent soil erosion. The roots of the trees in the forest areas hold the soil firmly. They do not allow the rain water to wash it away easily. Thus the trees help to prevent soil erosion,
7. Forests keep up the natural balance. The trees keep up the balance between the plant and the animal life. The forests preserve wild animals like lions, tigers and panthers. These animals depend for their food on animals like deer, antilopes, stags and other animals. In turn these animals live on plants. Similarly some birds feed on smaller birds who live on insects and plants. Thus the forests keep up a balance in nature. No plant or animal goes out of existence and no plant or animal overgrows in number than it is required by the nature.
8. Herbs and some parts of certain trees are used for making medicines. Cincona and Neem are some of such trees.