Flora and Fauna of India | Vegetation of India- Types
Vegetation of India
This part has been affected worst by human influences since long time. Due to this reason, climax formations are considerably altered or destroyed for agriculture and other similar purposes. The present vegetation has suffered hugely from effects of plants, animals, soil, climate and man. Therefore, the vegetation of the country that we see around us is much interfered. The most important factors involved in the classification of vegetation include rainfall, temperature, biotic influences, and life forms. In India, there are two most common types of plant formations, (i) Forest and (ii) Grassland.
Indian forests have generally been classified on the basis of temperature into four major types: (i) Tropical, (ii) Montane subtropical, (iii) Temperature, and (iv) Alpine.
Common in the warmer plains, ranging from very dense, multistoried of diverse trees, shrubs and lianas in areas of high rainfall to dry, scrub jungles of thorny bushes in isolated patches in dry areas. Thus, they are of two types: moist tropical forests and dry tropical forests.
Moist tropical forests
On the basis of degree of wetness these are of the following three types:
- Tropical wet evergreen forests– Where annual rainfall is over 250 cm, as in West coast, Assam, Bengal, and Andaman islands. They are multistoried, made up of small trees, shrubs, epiphytes, lianas, and dense ground vegetation. The Dipterocarpus, Hopea, Artocarpus, Mangifera,Emblica, Michelia, Ervatamina, Lagerstroemia, Ixora and some Climbers.
- Tropical moist semi-green forests- better developed in northern than the southern region of country. Trees shed their leaves for brief period. In the north, they develop in north Assam and Bengal and parts of Orissa receiving heavy rainfall. There are some evergreen plants also as Artocarpus, Michelia, and The deciduous trees are Terminalia, Terameles and Shorea.
- Tropical moist deciduous forests– It includes those trees that shed leaves for small period, some are evergreen and semi- evergreen. They are common in moist areas of Kerela,Karnataka and south M.P. in south parts os north U.P., M.P., Bihar, Bengal and Orissa in north. The well known forests of teak and sal belong to the present category. In south India, moist deciduous forests are prevailed by species of Terminalia, Grewelia, Gariya, Salmalia, Tectona grandis, Adina cordifolia, Melia, Albizzia, Dalbergia In the northern half, Shorea robusta is Dominant in Gorakhpur and Tarai regions of U.P., Assam and north Bengal. Other associates of Sal are Terminalia tomentosa, Dillenia sp., Eugenia sp. etc.
Dry Tropical Deciduous Forests
In tropical deciduous forests, mostly their trees remain leafless for several weeks in dry season. Some forests found in the North like Punjab, U.P., Bihar and Orissa in the regions which are neither too wet nor too dry. Trees are of moderate size (2.5m tall), with spare canopy. Thorny scrubs, grasses and some of the bamboos are also present in some regions. In Punjab and west U.P. forests, Anogeissus latifolia, Acacia catechu, Terminalia tomentosa, Boswellia serrata are dominants with subdominance of Dendrocalamus strictus , Emblica officinalis, Woodfordia floribunda etc. Forests of Shorea robusta are also found as scattered in wet areas. In south, such forests are present in dry areas of Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. These are mixed forests of deciduous trees with scattered patches of densely growing grasses intermixed with shrubs. Terminalia, Anogeissus latifolia, Tectona grandis, Diospyros melanoxylon, Boswellia sp. form the top layer, followed by smaller plants like Dendrocalamus, Bambusa, Lontana, Helicteris etc. Common grasses are Panicum, Andropogon and Heteropogon.
Montane Subtropical Forests
These are found on hill of south India, as Nilgiri, Mahabaleshwar and Pachmarhi, between an altitude of 3,000 to 5,600 ft. These are cooler than the tropical, and warmer than the temperate forests. In southern parts the common trees are Eugenia, Actinodaphne, Canthium, Mangifera and Ficus, and climbers are Piper trichostachyon, Gnetum scandens, Smilax macrophylla etc. The northern areas have rather tall trees. In eastern Himalayas due to higher humidities, bamboos, many epiphytes including orchids, and ferms become abundant. Most of the trees are evergreen. The floristic description of eastern and western Himalayas has already been given.
They occur above 5,300 ft altitude, chiefly on mountains of Himalayas and Nilgiri. In Himalayas, oaks and conifers are abundant. Their distribution has already been described. Oaks form relatively stable evergreen pure stands. The southern temperate vegetation is chiefly represented by the sholas near Ootacamund, Nilgiri hills in Tamil Nadu. These forests are very dense with extensive growth grasses and evergreen tall trees, like Balanocarpus utilis, Hopea parviflora, Artocarpus hirsuta, Salamia malbaricum etc. Their branches are clothed with mosses, many woody climbers, fern and other epiphytes.
Sometimes they are subdivided as sub-alpine forests, alpine scrubs, moist alpine scrub sand dry alpine scrubs. They are extensive throughout the Himalayas above 11,000 ft. The tree height becomes lesser with increasing altitude, being replaced finally by sparse growth of small plants like Sedum, Primula, Saxifraga and lichens etc.
In India, natural grasslands are hardly present, and most of them are maintained in their present Seral stages due to biotic influences. Thus, grasslands are not climax formations but have developed secondarily by the forests’ destruction.
The two major factors that resulted into their secondarily development are edaphic and biotic. The grasslands of India are of three major types:
- Xerophilous– These occur in dry regions of north-west India under semi-desert conditions.
- Mesophilous– They are also called as savannahs, these are extensive grass flats, typical of moist deciduous forests of U.P., and
- Hygrophilous– These are also called wet savannahs. All these are being controlled under biotic influences.
Fauna of India
Like flora, our fauna (animal life) is also equally rich and varied. There are about 77,000 known species of animals. These include about 53,000 species of insects, 1200 birds, 453 reptiles, 372 mammals, 5000 molluscs, 2,500 fish and 450 reptiles.
Among the mammals we have elephant found in hot, wet equatorial dense forests of Assam , Kerala and Karnataka, with heavily rainfall. Camel and wild asses are found in hot and arid deserts, Camels are common in Thar desert, the wild asses are confined to arid areas of the Rann of Kutch. One –horned rhinoceros lives in swampy and marshy lands of Assam and North Bengal.
An interesting group- Indian bison, the Indian buffalo and the Nilgai is also found. Chousingha (four-horned antelope), black buck (Indian antelope), gazel and deer are unique group of Indian animals. The deer species include Kashmir stag, swamp deer, spotted deer, musk deer and mouse deer.
Indian lion is most distinct, which is found only in India and African continent in the world. It occurs in Gir forests of Saurashtra in Gujrat. Tiger, the most powerful species of the forest is also found in India.
Bengal tiger is also found in the Sunderbans. Other animals of cat family are leopards, clouded leopards, and snow leopards. The letters are confined to the upper reaches Himalayas.
Several interesting animals live in the Himalayan ranges. Chief species include Wild sheep, Mountain goats, ibex, shrew and tapir. Panda and snow leopard are also found here. There are several species of monkey in India, of which the langoor is the most common. Lion-tailed macaque has hair round the face. Bird life in India is both rich and colorful. Tiger is the national animal, Peacock is the national bird. Pheasants, geese, ducks, mynahs, parakeets, pigeons, cranes, hornbills and sunbirds are found in forests and wetlands.
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