India has a diverse range of forests: from the rainforest of Kerala in the south to the alpine pastures of Ladakh in the north, from the deserts of Rajasthan in the west to the evergreen forests in the north-east. Climate, soil type, topography, and elevation are the main factors that determine the type of forest. Forests are classified according to their nature and composition, the type of climate in which they thrive, and its relationship with the surrounding environment.
Forest Types in India:
a) Coniferous Forests grow in the Himalayan mountain region, where the temperatures are low. These forests have tall stately trees with needlelike leaves and downward sloping branches so that the snow can slip off the branches. They have cones instead of seeds and are called Gymnosperms.
b) Broadleaved Forests have several types, such as evergreen forests, deciduous forests, thorn forests, and mangrove forests. Broadleaved forests have large leaves of various shapes.
c) Evergreen Forests grow in the high rainfall areas of the Western Ghats, North Eastern India and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. These forests grow in areas where the monsoon lasts for several months. The trees overlap with each other to form a continuous canopy. Thus very little light penetrates down to the forest floor. Only a few shade loving plants can grow in the ground layer in areas where some light filters down from the closed canopy. The forest is rich in orchids and ferns. The barks of the trees are covered in moss. The forest abounds in animal life and is most rich in insect life.
d) Wet Evergreen
Wet evergreen forests are found in the south along the Western Ghats and the Nicobar and Andaman Islands and all along the north-eastern region. It is characterized by tall, straight evergreen trees that have a buttressed trunk or root on three sides like a tripod that helps to keep a tree upright during a storm. These trees often rise to a great height before they open out like a cauliflower. The more common trees that are found here are the jackfruit, betel nut palm, Jamun, Mango, and Hollock. The trees in this forest form a tier pattern: shrubs cover the layer closer to the ground, followed by the short structured trees and then the tall variety. Beautiful fern of various colours and different varieties of orchids grow on the trunks of the trees.
Semi-evergreen forests are found in the Western Ghats, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the Eastern Himalayas. Such forests have a mixture of the wet evergreen trees and the moist deciduous trees. The forest is dense and is filled with a large variety of trees of both types.
f) Deciduous Forests are found in regions with a moderate amount of seasonal rainfall that lasts for only a few months. Most of the forests in which Teak trees grow are of this type. The deciduous trees shed their leaves during the winter and hot summer months. In March or April they regain their fresh leaves just before the monsoon, when they grow vigorously in response to the rains. Thus there are periods of leaf fall and canopy re-growth. The forest frequently has thick undergrowth as light can penetrate easily onto the forest floor.
g) Thorn Forests are found in the semi- arid regions of India. The trees, which are sparsely distributed, are surrounded by open grassy areas. Thorny plants are called Xerophytic species and are able to conserve water. Some of these trees have small leaves, while other species have thick, waxy leaves to reduce water losses during transpiration. Thorn forest trees have long or fibrous roots to reach water at great depths. Many of these plants have thorns, which reduce water loss and protect them from herbivores.
h) Mangrove Forests grow along the coast especially in the river deltas. These plants are able to grow in a mix of saline and fresh water. They grow luxuriantly in muddy areas covered with silt that the rivers have brought down. The mangrove trees have breathing roots that emerge from the mud banks.
Forest Cover of India (As per MoEF Report – 2013)