Natural Vegetation-Forest types and distribution, wild life, conservation, biosphere reserves

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In India, at present forest areas cover about 76.5 million hectares of land, which is about 23 per cent of the total geographical area. It ranges from about 87 per cent in Andaman & Nicobar Islands to only about 4 percent in Haryana making to range difference of 83 percent. According to our National Forest Policy, 33% of the total geographical area of the country should be under the forest cover to maintain ecological balance. Unfortunately, it is below the norm outlined in our forest policy. The vegetation found in India can be divided into six main types. They are tropical evergreen forests, tropical deciduous forests, thorn forests, tidal forests and mountain forests.

Tropical 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 period lasts for several months.

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.

Dry tropical thorn forest occurs in areas of low rainfall. Forest types are saprophytic in nature. Trees are shorter than deciduous type. These forests mostly occur in the scanty rainfall region of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. Most of the species are ‘acacia’ type.

Tidal Forests grow along the coast especially in the river deltas. These plants are uniquely adapted to be able to grow in a mix of saline and freshwater. 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.


Conservation of Biodiversity and Wildlife

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of all life forms.Sum total of all the variety of living organisms on earth constitute biodiversity. There are three levels of biodiversity:

  • genetic diversity—the variety of genetic information contained in individual plants, animals and micro-organisms
  • species diversity—the variety of species
  • ecosystem diversity—the variety of habitats, ecological communities and ecological processes.

Biodiversity is not static; it is constantly changing. It can be increased by genetic change and evolutionary processes, and it can be reduced by threats which lead to population decline and extinction.

Biodiversity is not uniformly distributed across the geographical regions of the earth. Certain regions of the world are very rich in biodiversity. We call such areas as “mega diversity zones”. We also refer to them as “hot-spots”. For example, India accounts for only 2.4 % of the land area of the world; but it contributes approximately 8% species to the global diversity due to existence of such pockets.

Humans depend for their sustenance, health, well being and cultural growth on nature. Biotic resources provide food, fruit, seed, fodder, medicines and a host of other goods and services. Importance of Biodiversity is due to:-

  • Food, fibre, medicines, fuel wood and ornamental plants
  • Protection of water resources
  • Soil protection
  • Breeding material for crop improvement
  • Nutrient storage and cycling
  • Pollution reduction
  • Climate stability
  • Maintenance of ecological processes

Causes of Loss of Biodiversity:-

  • Direct ways: Deforestation, hunting, poaching, commercial exploitation
  •  Indirect ways: Loss or modification of the natural habitats, introduction of exotic species, pollution, etc.
  •  Natural causes – Climate change.

International efforts for biodiversity conservation:-

  • Convention on Biological Diversity :-The objectives of the CBD are the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from commercial and other utilization of genetic resources. The agreement covers all ecosystems, species, and genetic resources.
    CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
    The CITES aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Through its three appendices, the Convention accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 plant and animal species.
  • CMS Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals :-The CMS, or the Bonn Convention aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range. Parties to the CMS work together to conserve migratory species and their habitats by providing strict protection for the most endangered migratory species, by concluding regional multilateral agreements for the conservation and management of specific species or categories of species, and by undertaking co-operative research and conservation activities.
  • International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture :-The objectives of the Treaty are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security. The Treaty covers all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, while its Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing covers a specific list of 64 crops and forages. The Treaty also includes provisions on Farmers’ Rights.
  • Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (popularly known as the Ramsar Convention) :-The Ramsar Convention provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The convention covers all aspects of wetland conservation and wise use, recognizing wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation in general and for the well-being of human communities.
  • WHC World Heritage Convention (WHC) :-The primary mission of the WHC is to identify and conserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage, by drawing up a list of sites whose outstanding values should be preserved for all humanity and to ensure their protection through a closer co-operation among nations.
  • IPPC International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) :-The IPPC aims to protect world plant resources, including cultivated and wild plants by preventing the introduction and spread of plant pests and promoting the appropriate measures for their control. The convention provides the mechanisms to develop the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs), and to help countries to implement the ISPMs and the other obligations under the IPPC, by facilitating the national capacity development, national reporting and dispute settlement.
    The Secretariat of the IPPC is hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

There are several strategies which are adapted for conservation of Biodiversity. Some of these are:

Legislation Formal policies and programmes for conservation and sustainable utilisation of biodiversity resources dates back to several decades. The concept of environmental protection is enshrined in the Indian constitution in articles 48a and 51a(g). Major central acts relevant to biodiversity include:
• Environment Protection Act, 1986
• Fisheries Act, 1897
• Forest Act, 1927
• Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980
• Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 1991

In-situ Conservation Conserving the animals and plants in their natural habitats is known as in situ conservation. The established natural habitats are:
• National parks and sanctuaries
• Biosphere reserves
• Nature reserves
• Reserved and protected forests
• Preservation plots
• Reserved forests

Ex-situ Conservation like Boatanical and Zoological parks
Recording Indigenous Knowledge
Community Participation in Biodiversity Conservation

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