Karnataka is spread across a geographical area of 191,791 square km (74,051 sq. mi).
The recorded forest area of Karnataka is 43,356.47 sq. km, as per the annual report of the state’s Forest Department for the year 2014-15.
Karnataka’s forest area is about 22.61% of the state’s geographical area. It accounts for around 6.18% of India’s total forest area of 701,673 sq. km.
The percentage of Karnataka’s forest area in comparison to its geographical area is slightly lower than the all-India average of around 23%. The percentage recommended by the National Forest Policy is 33%.
Classification of forest area in Karnataka
The total forest area of 43,356.47 sq. km in Karnataka can be classified as follows:
- Reserved Forests: 29,688.37 sq. km
- Protected Forests: 3,540.07 sq. km
- Unclassified Forests: 10,024.91 sq. km
- Village Forests: 49.05 sq. km
- Private Forests: 54.07 sq. km
Forest types in Karnataka
The state of Karnataka is blessed with magnificent forests. The impressive blanket of forest greenery existing in the state is composed of 5 different forest types. The forest types found in Karnataka are:
Evergreen and Semi-evergreen Forest
The evergreen forests mainly comprises of evergreen trees that retain their green foliage throughout the year. The semi-evergreen forests are a mixture of ever-green trees and deciduous trees that lose their leaves seasonally.
The evergreen forests are found in the western slopes of the Western Ghats in the state. The semi-evergreen forests also cover the Western Ghats. Both these forest types are dense in nature.
Moist Deciduous Forest
The suitable temperature conditions and moderate rainfall help moist deciduous forests to flourish in the state. The moist deciduous forests mostly occupy the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats in Karnataka. They are spread across the wet north-eastern parts of the Peninsula. These forests are mainly dominated by Sal and Teak trees along with rosewood trees.
Dry Deciduous Forest
The dry deciduous forests are actually a type of the Indian deciduous or monsoon forests. This forest type thrives in warm climate. These forests are characterized by tall trees. They drop their leaves during the dry winter and spring months.
The dry deciduous forests dominate the lee side of the Western Ghats in the state. This region does not receive much rainfall. The most significant tree found in the dry deciduous forests is Sal.
Scrub and Thorny Forest
The scrub and thorny forests are seen in the arid parts of the Deccan Plateau located in the north-eastern part of the state. These forests receive less than 750 mm (30 in) annual rainfall. There is no rainfall in this region during the months of November to April. The region experiences high temperature during the summer season. Due to the scanty rainfall the vegetation of this forest type is characterised by thorny trees, spiny and xerophytic shrubs, and dry grassland.
There are several areas of grassland and wasteland found in Karnataka. In the heavy rainfall regions of the state the grasslands occur at high altitude. These grasslands are un-wooded. Often the high altitude grasslands of Karnataka are interspersed with pockets of shola forests.
Need for conservation of forests in Karnataka
The conservation of forest is a major challenge for the entire country, including the state of Karnataka.
Forest is one of the major forms of natural landscape. The forest resources form an integral part of the ecosystem. Due to the ever-increasing population and consequent landlessness, the encroachment of forestland is on the rise.
The unchecked exploitation of forest resources has become a major threat to the conservation of forest and its resources in Karnataka. Fragmentation and honeycombing of forest areas are causing the loss of corridor for movement of wild animals.
Karnataka also has patches of private forests that require protection. Smuggling of timber and poaching of wild animals are posing serious threats to the forest resources of the state. Adequate measures must be taken in order to halt the decline of forest resources. There must be a conscious effort on part of the government as well as the citizens to conserve the forest resources of Karnataka.