doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.75 Published online 5 July 2017
Forests located in regions receiving heavy rainfall in India are more resilient to climate change than those in relatively drier regions, a study has found1. The study also points out that forests in the northern part of Himalayas are most vulnerable to climate change.
At 77 million hectares, India’s recorded forest area is more than twice the area of entire Japan. Of this, almost 60 million hectares are natural forests. The rest is a mix of plantation forests, water bodies, snow covered area and rocky outcrop. These forests are vulnerable to different conditions, including the present climate.
The study, carried out by researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun took biological index, disturbance index, canopy cover, and slope as indicators. The researchers assessed the vulnerability of Indian forests under current and future climate.
Their analysis shows that forests in the Western Ghats and northeast, two of the wettest regions in India, are less vulnerable to present and future climate. On the other hand, the dry deciduous forests of peninsular India and central India, Himalayan moist temperate and subtropical rain forests have greater vulnerability under the present and future climate. Climate change is also expected to make them less resilient in the long run.
Ironically, a promising way to protect forests from the effects of future climate is to make them more resilient to the stresses of today’s climate. Understanding the inherent vulnerability of forests, therefore, is important for future management of forests, says one of the lead researchers Jagmohan Sharma.
1. Sharma, J. et al. Vulnerability of forests in India: A national scale assessment. Environmental Management (2017) doi: 10.1007/s00267-017-0894-4