Natural Vegetation : UPSC / HCS
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Natural Vegetation : UPSC / HCS

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GEOGRAPHY

Natural Vegetation : UPSC / HCS

Vegetation refers to the plants collectively found in a particular area or habitat. Vegetation is a broader term than flora, which means plant diversity of an area. There are different factors affecting natural vegetation. This article will take you through the following contents:

  • Introduction
  • Factors affecting natural vegetation 
  • Types of vegetation changes with annual rainfall
  • Types of forests

Natural Vegetation

INTRODUCTION

  • Vegetation refers to the plants collectively found in a particular area or habitat.
  • Vegetation is a broader term than flora, which means plant diversity of an area.
  • Natural vegetation refers to a plant community that has been left undisturbed over a long time, so as to allow its individual species to adjust themselves to climate and soil conditions as fully as possible.
  • That is why crops are not included in the natural vegetation.
  • Virgin vegetation-Undisturbed by the human beings and it can be found in the area where human reach is not possible like Himalayan region and Sunderban delta region.
  • Endemic vegetation- The virgin vegetation is only found in India.
  • Exotic vegetation- the virgin vegetation which has come from outside of India.
  • India occupies tenth place in the world and fourth in Asia in plant diversity- about 15,000 flowering plants in India which account for 6% of the world’s total number of flowering plants.

Factors affecting natural vegetation

A. Relief:

Land: Affects the natural vegetation directly and indirectly

  1. Fertile land --for agriculture
  2. Undulating and rough terrains -- For grasslands and woodlands and give shelter to a variety of wildlife

Soil:

  1. sandy soils -- support cactus and thorny bushes 
  2. wet, marshy, deltaic soil --mangroves and deltaic vegetation

B. Climate 

Temperature: 

  • Temperature falls with Height and affects the type of vegetation and its growth, and changes it from tropical to subtropical temperate and alpine vegetation.

Photoperiod (Sunlight): 

  • sunlight varies at different places due to differences in latitude, altitude, season, and duration of the day.
  • Due to the longer duration of sunlight, trees grow faster in sunlight

Precipitation:

Areas of heavy rainfall have more dense vegetation as compared to other areas of less rainfall.

Type of Vegetation changes with Annual Rainfall.

200 cm or more--Evergreen Rain Forests

100 to 200 cm---Monsoon Deciduous Forests

50 to 100 cm---Drier Deciduous or Tropical Savanna

25 to 50 cm---Dry Thorny Scrub(Semi-arid)

Below 25 cm---Desert (Arid)

On the basis of certain common features such as predominant vegetation type and climatic regions.

Indian forests can be divided into the following groups:

  • Tropical forests
  • Montane forests
  • Alpine forest

Tropical forest

Tropical forest further divided into 

Moist Tropical Forests

  • Tropical Wet Evergreen
  • Tropical Semi-Evergreen
  • Tropical Moist Deciduous

Dry Tropical Forests

  • Tropical Dry Evergreen
  • Tropical Dry Deciduous
  • Tropical Thorn

Tropical wet evergreen forest

  • The trees of these forests do not shed their leaves together.
  • The tropical rain forest appears like a thick canopy of foliage, broken only where it is crossed by large rivers or cleared for cultivation.
  • The sunlight cannot reach the ground due to the thick canopy. 
  • The undergrowth is formed mainly of bamboos, ferns, climbers, orchids, etc.

Climatic conditions:

  • Annual rainfall exceeds 250 cm
  • The annual temperature=25°-27°C

Distribution

  • The western side of the Western Ghats Some regions in the Purvanchal hills.
  •  In the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Timber

  • Hardwood: The timber of these forests is fine-grained, hard, and durable.
  • It has high commercial value but it is highly challenging to exploit due to dense undergrowth, absence of pure stands and lack of transport facilities ·        
  • The important species of these forests are rosewood, mahogany, aini, ebony, etc.

Tropical semi-evergreen forest

  • Transitional forests between tropical wet evergreen forests and tropical deciduous forests.
  • Comparatively drier areas than tropical wet evergreen forests.

Climatic Conditions

  • Annual rainfall is 200-250 cm
  • The dry season is not short like in tropical wet evergreen forests.

Distribution

The western coast, Assam, Lower slopes of the Eastern Himalayas, Odisha, and Andamans.

Characteristics

  • The semi-evergreen forests are less dense.
  • The main species are white cedar, hollock, and kail.
  • Trees usually have buttressed trunks with abundant epiphytes.

Tropical moist deciduous

  • also called the monsoon forests

Climatic Conditions

  • Annual rainfall 100 to 200 cm.
  • Mean annual temperature=27°C

Characteristics

  • The trees drop their leaves during the spring and early summer when sufficient moisture is not available.
  • The general appearance is bare in extreme summers (April-May).
  • These forests occupy a much larger area than the evergreen forests but large tracts under these forests have been cleared for cultivation.

Distribution

  • In northeastern states along the foothills of the Himalayas, eastern slopes of the Western Ghats 
  • Hills of eastern Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Chota Nagpur plateau, Odisha, Parts of West Bengal, and Andaman and Nicobar islands.
  • The main species found in these forests are teak, sal, amla, Jamun, bamboo, shisham, hurra, mahua, Kusum, and sandalwood, etc.

Tropical dry evergreen

Distribution

  • Along the coasts of Tamil Nadu.

Climatic Conditions

  • Annual rainfall of 100 cm(mostly from the north-east monsoon winds in October-December)
  • Mean annual temperature = 28°C.
  • The growth of evergreen forests in areas of such low rainfall is a bit strange

Characteristics

  • Short statured trees, up to 12 m high, with complete canopy.
  • The important species are Jamun, tamarind, neem, etc.

Tropical dry deciduous

Climatic Conditions

  • Annual rainfall is 70-100 cm.

Characteristics

  • Similar to tropical moist deciduous forests and shed their leaves in the dry season with the only difference that they can grow in areas of comparatively less rainfall.
  • They represent a transitional type – moist deciduous on the wetter side and thorn forests on the drier side.
  • The forests are composed of a mixture of a few species of deciduous trees rising up to a height of 20 meters.

Distribution

  • found in rainier areas of the Peninsula and the plains of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan.
  • The important species are teak, axlewood, rosewood, common bamboo, red sanders, laurel, satinwood, etc.

Tropical thorn forest

Climatic Conditions

  • Annual rainfall less than 50 cm.
  • The mean temperature is 25°-30°C.

Characteristics

  • The trees are low (6-10 meters maximum) and widely scattered.
  • consist of a variety of grasses and shrubs.
  • scrub vegetation found here.
  • Important species found are babool, ber, and wild date palm, Khair, neem, khejri, palas, etc.

Distribution

Semi-arid areas of southwest Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh

 

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