ISFR 2021 and our reforestation progress

ISFR 2021 and our reforestation progress

ISFR 2021 and our reforestation progress- Today Current Affairs

The National Forest Policy, 1988 envisaged 33% of the geographical area under forest and tree cover and two-thirds of the area in hills under forests. The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021—released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change—shows an aggregate rise in the total forest area , although the natural forests have declined by 1,582 sq km. The alarming feature of the forest profile is the reduction in forest cover in north-eastern states, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Himachal Pradesh owing to anthropogenic factors such as the felling of trees, shifting cultivation, developmental activities, and natural calamities like landslides. The Hindu Analysis.
Against the Conference of the Parties (COP26) target—nationally determined contributions—of increasing the additional carbon sink of 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030, the forest’s carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) should increase. The forests are classified based on the canopy density as, (i) very dense forests (VDF)—3.04%, with tree canopy density of over 70%, (ii) moderately dense forests (MDF)—9.33%, which are also called the “natural forests,” with tree canopy density of 40%–70%, and (iii) open forests—9.34%, with tree canopy density of 10%–40%. The per hectare carbon sink provided by VDF is the highest in the tropical and subtropical climate across India, implying that each hectare of VDF has the largest carbon stock owing to its larger canopy. The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 published by the Food and Agriculture Organization finds that India ranks 10th in the forest area globally. The average annual net gain in forest area in India was 0.38% over the 2010–20 period, which is third in the global rank. The Hindu Analysis.
A detailed aggregate analysis reveals that there is a rise of 501 sq km in VDF, which are protected or reserve forests; and a rise of 2,621 sq km in open forests. The tropical dry deciduous forests are spread in the largest area, with the share of open forests, MDF, and VDF in descending order, respectively. The MDF found in tropical moist deciduous forests are the next largest stratum that provides CCS owing to their size. However, the Himalayan dry temperate forest has the highest carbon stock potential in their VDF (331.12 thousand tonnes of carbon stock per hectare) compared to the VDF of other forest strata as well as the aggregate CCS, and these forests need conservation positively; plantations and TOF (trees outside forests) provide the lowest CCS, although they are easy to grow and maintain. In absolute terms, the tropical dry deciduous forests followed by the tropical moist deciduous forests provide the maximum CCS owing to their size.
Mangroves (0.15% of our geographical area)—the blue carbon ecosystems with three to four times higher CCS compared to any forests on land—have increased by a minimal 17 sq km and are unable to offset the loss of the MDF of 1,582 sq km. Of the total forest cover (21.71%), 35.46% is prone to forest fires with 2.81% being extremely vulnerable. The rise of forest area compared to 2019 in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is attributed to reforestation, conservation measures, and agroforestry, although the fast-growing varieties like plantations and bamboo are unable to match the natural forests due to both the lack of biodiversity and CCS. In keeping with our climate change mitigation commitment, compared to 2019, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes in the carbon stock of the country is registered.
The increase in forest cover is registered by five states: Andhra Pradesh—647 sq km, Telangana—632, Odisha—537 sq km, Karnataka—155 sq km and Jharkhand—110 sq km, whereas the north-eastern states, with the largest share in the total forest cover, have suffered loss of forests to the following extent: Arunachal Pradesh—257 sq km, Manipur—249 sq km, Nagaland—235 sq km, Mizoram—186 sq km and Meghalaya—73 sq km. Surprisingly, seven megacities—Greater Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Chennai have 509.72 sq km of forest cover, which is 10.21% of the geographical area; among these megacities, only Delhi has VDF and its MDF and open forest are the largest. The Hindu Analysis.
In the ISFR 2021, for the first time, the forest cover of tiger reserves is assessed revealing that 74.51% of tiger reserves comprises the forest cover—22.01% VDF, 35.95% MDF, and 16.55% open forests. The carnivores depend on prey populations as well as undisturbed, continuous, non-fragmented landscapes. Hence, the increase in tiger corridors (11,575.12 sq km or 0.43% of the country’s geographical area and 1.62% of the country’s total forest cover) from 2011 (2008–09 data) to 2021 (2019–20 data) looks promising. However, out of the 52 tiger reserves, only 20 of them have shown an increase in forest cover and the remaining 32 have shown a decline. The lion habitat in the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary has also shrunk its forest cover by 33.43 sq km (2.52%) from 2011 to 2021. This is alarming because numerous river streams originate either from tiger reserves or the catchment area is surrounded by these reserves. The loss of tiger or lion reserves implies the loss of these wetlands that support rich floral and faunal biodiversity.

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