Forest And Wildlife Resources : UPSC / HCS
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Forest And Wildlife Resources : UPSC / HCS

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Forest And Wildlife Resources: UPSC / HCS

 An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment like air, water, and mineral interacting as a system. Human beings are also an integral part of the ecosystem. They utilize vegetation and wildlife. This article has the following contents:

Forest And Wildlife Resources



  • An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment like air, water, and mineral interacting as a system.
  • Human beings are also an integral part of the ecosystem. They utilize vegetation and wildlife. 
  • The greed of human beings has resulted in the overutilization of these resources and creating ecological imbalance.
  •  As a result, some of the plants and animals have reached the verge of extinction.


  • Biodiversity is the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part.
  • This includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.
  • Biodiversity is important in human-managed as well as natural ecosystems.
  • Humans' actions that influence biodiversity, affect the well-being of themselves and others.

Read More: Natural Vegetation 

Flora and fauna in India

  • Like its flora, India is also rich in its fauna. It has approximately 90,000 animal species.
  • India has nearly 8 percent of the total number of species in the world (estimated to be 1.6 million).
  • The country has about 2,000 species of birds ( 13% of the world’s total) 2,546 species of fish,(nearly 12% of the world’s stock)
  • It also shares between 5 and 8 percent of the world’s amphibians, reptiles, and mammals.
  • India is the only country in the world that has both tigers and lions.

Wildlife in India

  • The elephants are the most majestic animals among the mammals and found in the hot wet forests of Assam, Karnataka, and Kerala.
  • One-horned rhinoceroses---swampy and marshy lands of Assam and West Bengal. 
  • Wild ass --Arid areas of the Rann of Kachchh
  • Camels---Thar Desert
  • Indian lion---Gir forest in Gujarat. 
  • Tigers --Madhya Pradesh, the Sundarbans, and the Himalayan region.
  • Ladakh’s freezing high altitudes are home to yak, the shaggy horned wild ox weighing around one tonne.

Classification of species

Based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), species can be classified as:

  • Normal Species: Species whose population levels are considered to be normal for their survival, such as cattle, sal, pine, rodents, etc.
  • Endangered Species: Species that are in danger of extinction and their survival is difficult if the negative factors responsible for the decline in their population continue to operate.  Example: blackbuck, crocodile, Indian wild ass, Indian rhino, lion-tailed macaque, sangai (brow antlere deer in Manipur), etc.
  • Vulnerable Species: Species whose population has declined to levels from where it is likely to move into the endangered category in the near future if the negative factors continue to operate. Example: Blue sheep, Asiatic elephant, Gangetic dolphin, etc.
  • Rare Species: Species with small populations may move into the endangered or vulnerable category if the negative factors affecting them continue to operate. Example: Himalayan brown bear, wild Asiatic buffalo, desert fox, and a hornbill, etc.
  • Endemic Species: Species that are found in any particular area usually isolated by natural or geographical barriers. Examples: Andaman teal, Nicobar pigeon, Andaman wild pig, Mithun in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Extinct Species: Species that are not found in the likely areas where they may occur. A species may be extinct from a local area, region, country, continent or the entire earth. Examples: Asiatic cheetah, pink head duck

Forest cover in India

  • According to state records, the forest area covers 24.16 percent of the total land area of the country. 
  • The Forest area and the actual forest cover are not the same. 
  • The forest area is the area notified and recorded as the forest land irrespective of the existence of trees, while the actual forest cover is the area occupied by forests with canopy. 
  • Forest area is based on the records of the State Revenue Department, while actual forest cover is based on aerial photographs and satellite imageries.
  • Both forest area and forest cover vary from state to state.

Reasons for the depletion of forest

  • Shifting cultivation 
  • Large-scale development projects
  • Mining( The Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal is seriously threatened by the ongoing dolomite mining)
  • Grazing and fuelwood collection.

Forest Conservation

  • Very important for the survival and prosperity of humankind.
  • Preserves the ecological diversity and our life support systems – water, air, and soil. 
  • Preserves the genetic diversity of plants and animals for better growth of species and breeding.
  • For forest conservation, India has adopted a new forest policy to emphasize sustainable forest management which has the following provisions:
    • Bringing 33 percent of the geographical areas under forest cover;
    • Maintaining environmental stability and restoring forests where ecological balance was disturbed
    • Conserving the natural heritage of the country, its biological diversity, and its genetic pool.
  • Increasing the forest cover through social forestry and afforestation on degraded land
  • Increasing the productivity of forests to make timber, fuel, fodder, and food available to rural population dependant on forests, and encourage the substitution of wood.
  • Creating a massive people's movement involving women to encourage the planting of trees, stop the felling of trees and thus, reduce pressure on the existing forest.

Social forestry

Based on the forest conservation policy the following steps were initiated:

  • Social forestry: The management and protection of forests and afforestation on barren lands with the purpose of helping in the environmental, social, and rural development.

The National Commission on Agriculture (1976) has classified social forestry into three categories. 

  1. Urban forestry
  2. Rural forestry 
  3. Farm forestry.
  • Urban forestry is Raising and management of trees on public and privately owned lands in and around urban centers such as greenbelts, parks, roadside avenues, industrial and commercial green belts, etc.
  • Rural forestry is Promoting agroforestry and community forestry.
  • Agro-forestry is the raising of trees and agriculture crops on the same land inclusive of the waste patches. It combines forestry with agriculture.
  • Community forestry involves the raising of trees on public or community land such as the village pasture and temple land, roadside, strips along railway lines, and schools, etc. 
  • It aims at providing benefits to the community as a whole.

Farm forestry

  • It is a process under which farmers grow trees for commercial and non-commercial purposes on their farmlands.
  • Several lands such as the margins of agricultural fields, grasslands, and pastures may be used for raising trees under non-commercial farm forestry.

Types and Distribution of Forest

Reserved Forests: 

  • An area notified under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act or the State Forest Acts having a full degree of protection. 
  • In Reserved Forests, all activities are prohibited unless permitted.
  • Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Maharashtra have large percentages of reserved forests of their total forest area

Protected Forests:

  •  An area notified under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act or the State Forest Acts having a limited degree of protection.
  •  In Protected Forests, all activities are permitted unless prohibited.
  • Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan have a bulk of them under protected forests.

Unclassed Forest : 

  • An area recorded as forest but not included in reserved or protected forest category. 
  • The ownership status of such forests varies from state to state.
  • All Northeastern states and parts of Gujarat have a very high percentage of their forests as unclassed forests managed by local communities.
  • Then 15 more districts were added with time by reorganizing the boundaries of the existing seven districts. 
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