Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Monday, February 6, 2023

Types of forests

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.

 

Forests can be divided into six broad types, with a number of sub types. 
        

 

Moist tropical

Montane sub tropical

Wet evergreen

Broad leaved

Semi-evergreen

Pine

Moist deciduous

Dry evergreen

Littoral and swamp

 

Dry tropical

Montane temperate forests

Dry deciduous

Wet

Thorn

Moist

Dry evergreen

Dry

Sub alpine

Alpine

   

Moist

   

Dry

 


Moist tropical forests 

 

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


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 tress. The forest is dense and is filled with a large variety of trees of both types.

 

Moist deciduous


Moist deciduous forests are found throughout India except in the western and the north-western regions. The trees have broad trunks, are tall and have branching trunks and roots to hold them firmly to the ground. Some of the taller trees shed their leaves in the dry season. There is a layer of shorter trees and evergreen shrubs in the undergrowth. These forests are dominated by sal and teak, along with mango, bamboo, and rosewood.

 

Littoral and swamp


Littoral and swamp forests are found along the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the delta area of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. It consists mainly of whistling pines, mangrove dates, palms, and bulletwood. They have roots that consist of soft tissue so that the plant can breathe in the water.

 


Dry tropical forests

Dry deciduous forest


Dry deciduous forests are found throughout the northern part of the country except in the North-East. It is also found in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. The canopy of the trees does not normally exceed 25 metres. The common trees are the sal, a variety of acacia, and bamboo.

 

Thorn


This type is found in areas with black soil: North, West, Central, and South India. The trees do not grow beyond 10 metres. Spurge, caper, and cactus are typical of this region.

 

Dry evergreen


Dry evergreens are found along the Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka coast. It has mainly hard-leaved evergreen trees with fragrant flowers, along with a few deciduous trees.

 

  
Montane sub tropical forests

Broad-leaved forests


Broad-leaved forests are found in the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats, along the Silent Valley. There is a marked difference in the form of the vegetation in the two areas. In the Silent Valley, the poonspar, cinnamon, rhododendron, and fragrant grass are predominant. In the Eastern Himalayas, the flora has been badly affected by the shifting cultivation and forest fires. These wet forests consist mainly of evergreen trees with a sprinkling of deciduous here and there. There are oak, alder, chestnut, birch, and cherry trees. There are a large variety of orchids, bamboo and creepers.

 

Pine 


Pine forests are found in the steep dry slopes of the Shivalik Hills, Western and Central Himalayas, Khasi, Naga, and Manipur Hills. The trees predominantly found in these areas are the chir, oak, rhododendron, and pine. In the lower regions sal, sandan, amla, and laburnum are found.

 

Dry evergreen


Dry evergreen forests normally have a prolonged hot and dry season and a cold winter. It generally has evergreen trees with shining leaves that have a varnished look. Some of the more common ones are the pomegranate, olive, and oleander. These forests are found in the Shivalik Hills and foothills of the Himalayas up to a height of 1000 metres.

 


Montane temperate forests

 

Wet


Wet montane temperate forests occur in the North and the South. In the North, it is found in the region to the east of Nepal into Arunachal Pradesh, at a height of 1800–3000 metres, receiving a minimum rainfall of 2000 mm. In the South, it is found in parts of the Niligiri Hills, the higher reaches of Kerala. The forests in the northern region are denser than in the South. This is because over time the original trees have been replaced by fast-growing varieties such as the eucalyptus. Rhododendrons and a variety of ground flora can be found here.

 

In the North, there are three layers of forests: the higher layer has mainly coniferous, the middle layer has deciduous trees such as the oak and the lowest layer is covered by rhododendron and champa.

 

Moist


This type spreads from the Western Himalayas to the Eastern Himalayas. The trees found in the western section are broad-leaved oak, brown oak, walnut, rhododendron, etc. In the Eastern Himalayas, the rainfall is much heavier and therefore the vegetation is also more lush and dense. There are a large variety of broad-leaved trees, ferns, and bamboo. Coniferous trees are also found here, some of the varieties being different from the ones found in the South.

 

Dry


This type is found mainly in Lahul, Kinnaur, Sikkim, and other parts of the Himalayas. There are predominantly coniferous trees that are not too tall, along with broad-leaved trees such as the oak, maple, and ash. At higher elevation, fir, juniper, deodar, and chilgoza can be found.

 


Sub alpine

Sub alpine forests extends from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh between 2900 to 3500 metres. In the Western Himalayas, the vegetation consists mainly of juniper, rhododendron, willow, and black currant. In the eastern parts, red fir, black juniper, birch, and larch are the common trees. Due to heavy rainfall and high humidity the timberline in this part is higher than that in the West. Rhododendron of many species covers the hills in these parts.

 


Alpine

Moist


Moist alpines are found all along the Himalayas and on the higher hills near the Myanmar border. It has a low scrub, dense evergreen forest, consisting mainly of rhododendron and birch. Mosses and ferns cover the ground in patches. This region receives heavy snowfall.

 

Dry


Dry alpines are found from about 3000 metres to about 4900 metres. Dwarf plants predominate, mainly the black juniper, the drooping juniper, honeysuckle, and willow.