Forest, tree cover in India up by 2,261 sq. km in two years
What’s the news?
- According to the 17th India State of Forest Report-2021, Forest and tree cover in the country has increased by 2,261 square kms since the last assessment in 2019.
- The Environment Ministry highlighted that the total forest and tree cover was 80.9 million hectares, which accounted for 24.62% of the geographical area of the country.
- The report found that there had been a 1,540 sq. km increase in forest cover and 721 sq. km increase in tree cover since the last report in 2019.
- The report states that 17 States and Union Territories had more than 33% of their area under forest cover
- Out of 17 states and UT’s, five states/UTs namely Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have more than 75 percent forest cover while 12 states/UTs namely Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu, Assam, Odisha, have forest cover between 33 percent to 75 percent.
- Total mangrove cover in the country is 4,992 sq km. An increase of 17 sq Km in mangrove cover has been observed as compared to the previous assessment of 2019.
- Top three states showing mangrove cover increase are Odisha (8 sq km) followed by Maharashtra (4 sq km) and Karnataka (3 sq km).
- Total carbon stock in the country’s forest is estimated to be 7,204 million tonnes and there is an increase of 79.4 million tonnes in the carbon stock of the country as compared to the last assessment of 2019. The annual increase in the carbon stock is 39.7 million tonnes.
- The survey has found that 35.46 % of the forest cover is prone to forest fires. Out of this, 2.81 % is extremely prone, 7.85% is very highly prone and 11.51 % is highly prone.
- Bamboo forests have grown from 13,882 million culms (stems) in 2019 to 53,336 million culms in 2021.
- The report observed an increase in forest cover in open forest followed by very dense forest.
- Top three States showing an increase in forest cover are Andhra Pradesh (647 sq. km) followed by Telangana (632 sq. km) and Odisha (537 sq. km),Karnataka (155 sq km) and Jharkhand (110 sq km.)
- Area-wise Madhya Pradesh had the largest forest cover, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
- The top five States in terms of forest cover as a percentage of their total geographical area were Mizoram (84.53%), Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%), Meghalaya (76%), Manipur (74.34%) and Nagaland (73.90%).
Decline of Forest cover in Northeast
- The Northeast states account for 7.98% of total geographical area but 23.75% of total forest cover.
- The forest cover in the region has shown an overall decline of 1,020 sq km in forest cover.
- While states in the Northeast continue to have some of the largest forested areas, such as Mizoram (84.5% of its total geographical area is forests) or Arunachal Pradesh (79.3%), the two states have respectively lost 1.03% and 0.39% of their forest cover, while Manipur has lost 1.48 %, Meghalaya 0.43%, and Nagaland 1.88%.
- The report has attributed the decline in the Northeastern states to a spate of natural calamities, particularly landslides and heavy rains, in the region as well as to anthropogenic activities such as shifting agriculture, pressure of developmental activities and felling of trees which is of great concern as the Northeastern states are repositories of great biodiversity.
What kind of Forests are growing ?
- Three categories of forests are surveyed – very dense forests (canopy density over 70%), moderately dense forests (40-70%) and open forests (10-40%). Scrubs (canopy density less than 10%) are also surveyed but not categorized as forests.
- Very dense forests have increased by 501 sq km while there is a 1,582 sq km decline in moderately dense forests or “natural forests”.
- According to Experts, the decline, in conjunction with an increase of 2,621 sq km in open forest areas, shows a degradation of forests in the country.
- Also, scrub area has increased by 5,320 sq km – indicating the complete degradation of forests in these areas.
About India State of Forest Report(ISFR)
- The ISFR is a biennial publication of the Forest Survey of India under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change which has been mandated to assess the forest and tree resources of the country.
- The first survey was published in 1987, and ISFR 2021 is the 17th.
- With data computed through wall-to-wall mapping of India’s forest cover through remote sensing techniques, the ISFR is used in planning and formulation of policies in forest management as well as forestry and agroforestry sectors.
- Forest cover is defined as an area more than one hectare in extent and having tree canopy density of 10% and above, irrespective of the species and type of land.
- Tree cover includes land covered by individual trees less than one hectare in extent outside the forests.
- Green cover is a combination of both.
New features of ISFR 2021
- The ISFR-2021 provides information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock, carbon stock in India’s forests, forest fire monitoring, forest cover in tiger reserve areas, above ground estimates of biomass using SAR data & climate change hotspots in Indian forests.
- In ISFR 2021, the FSI has for the first time assessed forest cover in tiger reserves, tiger corridors and the Gir forest which houses the Asiatic lion.
- The forest cover in tiger corridors has increased by 37.15 sq km (0.32%) between 2011-2021, but decreased by 22.6 sq km (0.04%) in tiger reserves.
- Forest cover has increased in 20 tiger reserves in these 10 years, and decreased in 32.
- Eg: Buxa, Anamalai and Indravati reserves have shown an increase in forest cover while the highest losses have been found in Kawal, Bhadra and the Sundarbans reserves.
- Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh has the highest forest cover, at nearly 97%.
- A new initiative of FSI has also been documented where the ‘Above Ground Biomass’ has been estimated.
Estimate of Impact of Climate Change
- The report estimates that by 2030, 45-64% of forests in India will experience the effects of climate change and rising temperatures, and forests in all states (except Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland) will be highly vulnerable climate hot spots.
- Ladakh (forest cover 0.1-0.2%) is likely to be the most affected.
- India’s forests are already showing shifting trends of vegetation types, such as Sikkim which has shown a shift in its vegetation pattern for 124 endemic species.
- In 2019-20, 1.2 lakh forest fire hotspots were detected by the SNPP_VIIRS sensor, which increased to 3.4 lakh in 2020-21. The highest numbers of fires were detected in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
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