Types of Forest in India – Classification of 5 Different Types of Forests in India

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Types of Forest in India: Different types of forest account for about 24.56% of its total land area. Forests are crucial for providing us with resources such as fuelwood, fodder, fruits, and medicines. India features among the ten top countries which have dense forests. Additionally, these forests support a diverse range of flora and fauna, including endangered species like tigers and elephants, and provide ecosystem services such as soil conservation, water regulation, and carbon sequestration.

The forest cover in India is spread across various states, with Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Maharashtra being the top five states. Based on the predominant vegetation and climatic conditions, there are major 5 types of forest in India, which are comprehensively discussed in this article. So, scroll on to learn more about different types of forests.

Types of Forests in India

Before jumping onto the types of forests in India, one must know about the different types of forests in the world. Forests occupy 30% of the earth’s surface and contain an estimated 3 trillion trees. They play an essential role in maintaining the global climate by sequestering 70 percent of carbon, which amounts to about 296 gigatons of carbon.

In addition to their ecological value, forests are also essential in mitigating global warming by reducing air temperatures by up to 8°. There are three main types of forests in the world: Tropical, Temperate, and Boreal. A detailed description of each forest is mentioned below.

Tropical Forest of India

Tropical forests are referred to as the “lungs of the planet” due to their ability to absorb a large amount of carbon. These forests are located near the equator and are characterized by high rainfall and temperatures.

These forests are spread across the equator in South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. They have a distinct canopy layer, where the tops of trees form a dense layer that shades the forest floor.

Temperate Forest of India

Temperate forests are found in regions with moderate temperatures and precipitation, such as the eastern United States, Europe, and parts of Asia. These types of forests are characterized by deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall. These are seen across Eurasia and eastern North America.

Temperate forest temperature varies due to the four different seasons at these latitudes throughout the year. The soil is fertile here due to abundant precipitation and supports various flora like birch, maples, and oak. Animals discovered in temperate forests include bears, squirrels, and deer.

Boreal Forest of India

Boreal forests, also known as taiga, are located in the northern hemisphere. These types of forest act as carbon sinks and are characterized by cold temperatures. They are home to evergreen trees such as spruce and fir and are a vital source of timber and pulp for many countries.

These are one of the world’s largest land biomes and are seen across Scandinavia, Siberia, and North America (Alaska and Canada). Their significant part is removing excess carbon dioxide from the Earth’s atmosphere.

  • Boreal forests are discovered in areas where temperatures are below freezing.
  • The principal needle-leaf plant species sound these forests are Conifers, spruce, fir, and pine trees.
  • The forests are home to large herbivorous fauna like deer and moose.
  • The native birds of Taiga move to warmer forests or areas during the harsh winters of the Boreal forest.

Classification of Forest in India

Forests in India play a crucial role in maintaining the country’s ecological balance. India is home to a diverse range of forests, including tropical, subtropical, and temperate forests, which are spread across the country. While the Himalayan heights are known for temperate vegetation, the deltaic regions contain tropical forests and mangroves, and the Western Ghats and the Andaman Nicobar Islands have tropical forests and mangroves.

These different types of forests in India are classified into 5 categories depending upon the variations in the climate, soil, rainfall, etc. The types of forests in India are classified based upon:

  • Administration
  • Classification as per the Constitution of India
  • Merchantability
  • Composition
  • Annual Rainfall

5 Different Types of Forests in India

A forest is the second largest land use in India after agriculture. The forest cover of the country is estimated at 80.9 million hectares which comprises 24.62 percent of India’s geographical region. Any forested area which represents a legal status of the land in the Government Records is called Forest Area.

As discussed, the different types of Forests in India are classified based on different criteria, including administration, composition, and other ecological characteristics. Read more about the classification of forests in India based on five important criteria along with their significance.

Types of Forest in India – Based on Administration

Various types of forests in India are managed by different government agencies and organizations at different levels of administration. The officials have divided these forests into three categories, which are, Unprotected, Protected, and Reserved Forest. Take a look at the detailed description of these forests in the table below.

Unprotected Forests Protected Forests Reserved Forests
These types of forests are unclassified These forests are taken care of by the government These forests are directly supervised by the Government
No limitation on cropping trees or grazing cattle Local people are permitted to gather forest produce and cattle grazing Public entry is not allowed for the retail purpose of cattle grazing
Occupy 18% of the total forest area Occupy about 29% of the total forest area 53% of the total forest area is under this category of the country

Forest Types in India – Based on Constitution of India

The Indian Constitution recognizes forests as a vital national resource and provides for their protection and conservation. According to the Constitution of India, the different types of forest in India are divided into three categories depending upon whether they are privately owned or under the control of the government. It includes Private Forests, State Forests, and Commercial forests.

Private Forests State Forests Commerical Forests
Owned and managed by private individuals or organizations Managed and protected by the State Forest Department These forests are owned by private companies or the government and are managed for the purpose of generating revenue
Spread across more than 1% of the total forest area It covers the highest percentage of the total forest area i.e. 94% Spread across 5% of the total forest area
Used for timber production, agriculture, or recreation Used for ecotourism, recreation, and collection of minor forest produce. Used for purposes like timber production, pulp, paper production, etc.

Forest Classification in India – Based on Merchantability

There are two types of forest in India based on the type of warranty that claims that the goods are reasonably fit for the ordinary and intended purpose for which they are sold. These forests are Merchantable and Non-merchantable Forests.

  • Merchantable Forest: These forests are important for the economy, as they provide a source of income for local communities and contribute to various industries. They provide us with timber which is used for construction, furniture, etc. They can be easily harvested and sold in the market.
  • Non-Merchantable Forest: These forests do not have any commercial value. They have high ecological value, such as providing habitat for wildlife, regulating water cycles, and maintaining soil fertility.

Types of Forests in India – Based on Composition

There are two types of forest in India based on Composition, which are, Broad-Leaf Forests and Coniferous Forests. The key highlights of these forests are tabulated below.

Broad-Leaf Forests Coniferous Forests
These forests are found in warmer climates, such as tropical and subtropical regions These forests are found in cooler climates, such as the northern hemisphere, where low precipitation and long winters are there
Broad-leaf forests have nutrient-rich soil due to the decomposition of fallen leaves and other organic matter Coniferous forests have acidic soil due to the accumulation of needles and other acidic materials from the trees
Cover about 94% of the total forest area Cover 6.50% of the total forest area

Forest Types in India – Based on Annual Rainfall

The diversity of forests in India varies greatly due to unequal distribution of rainfall. From rain forest of Kerala in the South to the alpine pastures of Ladakh, from the desert of Rajasthan in the west to the evergreen forest in the North East, all forests have their own relevance.

One of the most important classifications of different types of forests in India is based on the amount of rainfall they receive annually. Below are the types of forests found in India, categorized based on the climatic conditions and type of vegetation.

1. Tropical Evergreen Forests

Tropical Evergreen Forests, aka Tropical Rainforests, are found in the hills of the northeastern region, Western Ghats, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They are found in warm and humid areas with an average annual rainfall of more than 200 cm and temperatures between 20-28°C.

  • These forests are characterized by a high density of tall trees that remain green throughout the year.
  • The trees have a thick canopy that blocks the sunlight from reaching the ground, resulting in limited understory vegetation.
  • Tropical evergreen forests are known for their high biodiversity and are considered to be one of the most important forests on the planet.
  • Important trees found in these forests include rosewood, mahogany, aini, ebony, etc.

2. Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forests

Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forests are found in the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats. They are seen in areas that receive low rainfall with annual precipitation of over 150 cm and a temperature range of 20-27°C. They are covered with shrubs and creepers and are known for trees like White Cedar, Hollocak, Kail, etc.

3. Tropical Deciduous Forests

These types of forests are the most widespread forests in India. Commonly known as Monsoon Forest, these forests are found in areas that receive annual precipitation between 70 and 200 cm. Due to this, these forests are further categorized into moist and dry deciduous forests.

While the Moist Deciduous Forests are found in regions that receive annual precipitation between 100-200 cm, the Dry deciduous forests are more pronounced in the areas which record annual rainfall between 70-100 cm. Species found in these types of forests in India are Teak, Shisham, Sal, Sandalwood, Tendu, Amaltas, Bel, Khair, Axlewood, Palas, etc.

4. Tropical Thorn Forests

Tropical Thorn Forests are spread over regions that receive rainfall less than 50 cm. They are found in semi-arid areas of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat. Important species found in this type of forest in India are Khejri, Babool, Palas, Ber, Khair, Neem, Wild Date Palm, etc.

5. Montane Forests

Montane Forests, also known as Cloud Forests, are found in high-altitude mountainous regions, typically between 1,000 to 3,500 meters above sea level. These forests are characterized by their unique climatic conditions as they are found in areas with a high level of precipitation, low temperatures, and high humidity.

  • This climatic condition creates a dense and lush forest.
  • These forests are classified into two types, the northern mountain forests, and the southern mountain forests.
  • The Northern Mountain Forests are found in the foothills of the Himalayas and hilly regions like Uttaranchal and West Bengal.
  • On the other hand, the Southern Mountain Forests are found in three distinct areas of Peninsular India viz Western Ghats, Vindhyas, and Nilgiris.
  • Oak, Chestnuts, Magnolia, Laurel, Cinchon, and Wattle are a few trees found in this type of forest.

6. Littoral and Swamp Forests

Littoral and swamp forests, also known as Wetland Forests, are mainly found in the coastal regions of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. India is known for its diverse array of wetland habitats. Around 3.9 million hectares of land are occupied by wetland forests.

  • They can be found in the Deccan Plateau, the saline coastlines of Gujarat, Rajasthan, and the Gulf of Kutch, the deltas of the eastern coast, and the rivers and lakes of Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • These forests are further classified into 3 categories: Beach Forest, Tidal Forest, and Freshwater Swamp Forest.
  • The common trees found in these types of forests are Manilkara Littoralis, Thespesia, Putranjiva, Spinifex Littoreus, Salix Tetrasperma, Cephalanthus, Barringtonia, Olea, Phoebe, etc. along with a variety of grasses.

Forest in India Report 2021

As per the India State of Forest Report, 2021, it has been observed that the overall forests and tree cover in the country have increased by 2,261 square kilometers in the last 2 years and 17 states/Union Territories have more than 33 percent area under forest cover. We have curated the top five Indian states based on the increase in their forest cover.

Types of Forest in India Forest Cover Area (2021) Increase in Forest Cover from 2019
Andhra Pradesh 29,784 +647 sq km
Telangana 21,214 +632 sq km
Odisha 52,156 +537 sq km
Karnataka 38,730 +155 sq km
Jharkhand 23,721 +110 sq km

Types of Forest in India UPSC

Reading and analyzing the Types of Forest in India and their classification is important from the UPSC exam point of view. This topic is included under Physical Geography and questions are asked from this section in GS Paper 1. Students must clear their Geography basics by reading NCERT books for UPSC from classes 9th to 12th.

Geography PYQ in UPSC Prelims has been typically framed about 5 types of forests, their distribution, the location where they are discovered, their important species, the temperature where they grow, and the amount of rainfall they receive. Below are some of the relevant Types of Forest in India UPSC questions that you should practice to enhance your knowledge related to the topic.

Types of Forest in India MCQs

Question: The government of India enacted the Forest Conservation Act in the year – 1988, 1983, 1980, 1976, Not Attempted
Answer: 1980

Question: Which of the following districts has maximum forest area as a percentage of the geographical area? (a) Indore, (b) Sheopur, (c) Ujjain, (d) Ratlam
Answer: Sheopur

Question: Sundarbans are which of the following types of forests? (a) Littoral or Tidal forest, (b) Sub-tropical pine forest, (c) Alpine forest, (d) Tropical dry deciduous forest
Answer: Littoral or Tidal forest

Question: Which of the following is regarded as the most valuable as far as the conservation of forest is concerned? (a) Village forest, (b) Unclassed forests, (c) Reserved forests, (d) Protected forests, (e) Not Attempted
Answer: Reserved forests

Question: Which forests are also referred to as ‘Monsoon Forests’? (a) Mangrove Forests, (b) Tropical Evergreen Forests, (c) Tropical Deciduous Forests, (d) Montane Forests
Answer: Tropical Deciduous Forests

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