India is home to a diverse range of forests—moist and dry tropical forests, temperate and subtropical montane forests, alpine forests and scrub forests. It is one of the 17 “megadiverse” countries and is home to 8% of the world’s known flora and fauna. In addition, Indian forests support the livelihood of nearly 275 million people, who are dependent on forests for food, fuelwood, fodder and other forest products.
How much forest is there in India?
When Global Forest Watch (GFW) data is adjusted to the tree cover canopy threshold of 10%, it shows 39.1 million hectares of natural forests and 3.71 million hectares of plantations in India, mainly for wood fiber, timber, fruit and oil palm according to data from the Spatial Database of Planted Trees.
global scale, and our methods are fine-tuned for the detection of humid tropical forest. Employing country specific data from India grants more insights into their unique forest ecosystems. In its latest biennial India State of Forests report, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) estimated nearly 71.2 million hectares of forest cover in India— a number that includes tree cover in plantations and other non-forest areas. Other India specific datasets have estimated the extent of natural forests, which are crucial to combatting climate change, being 40 times more effective at sequestering carbon than planted forests. WRI India’s analysis of vegetation type maps, identifies approximately 65 million hectares of natural and naturalized forests.
The variation in these numbers between GFW and India specific data sets can be attributed to definitional and methodological differences used when analyzing the data, which can lead to the underestimation of some forest types, particularly dry forests, in GFW’s measurements.
How are India’s forests changing?
Forest cover change data from FSI between 2009 and 2017 shows an increase in forest of 2 million hectares. Increases occurred in India’s densest forests (greater than 70% canopy cover) and open forests (between 10% and 40% canopy cover), with slight decreases seen in moderately dense forests (between 40% and 70% canopy cover).
GFW data on primary forests (defined by GFW as areas of mature humid forests greater than 5 hectares without human clearing in recent record) extends back to the year 2001 and shows that India lost humid primary rainforest since the turn of the century — an estimated 334,000 hectares.