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|| Gujarat’s Forest geography ||
The natural vegetation of the state is restricted to areas which receive adequate rainfall and are at the same time agriculturally unproductive. Ruggedness of terrain and rocky thin soils have made some parts of the state unsuitable for cultivation. Such areas, when occurring in the zone of heavy rainfall support the growth of forests in which the plants like crops do not have to reach maturity and bear fruits in less than a year.
The essential criteria for the growth of forests are suitable conditions of temperature and a heavy rainfall but their distribution is governed by the human selection of cultivated land. In Gujarat, where the rainfall has been essentially guided by orographic features, high rugged areas receive a higher rainfall than the plains. The rainfall in the state increases from the plains to the mountains and from north to south. The forests are therefore concentrated in the hilly parts of the state in the south-east and in the hills of Saurashtra. The hills of Kutch are bare because of low rainfall ascribed to their northern most location and the absence of any orographic features that could come in the way of the monsoon and cause precipitation. South, south east and east Gujarat are the only areas which have a considerable forest cover.
Gujarat has about 19.66 lakh hectares of land under forest. A large part of the forest cover which is economically exploitable is distributed in the districts of Dangs, Panchmahals, Broach, Surat, Bulsar, Junagadh, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha. Dangs, Surat and Broach, which are the three southern districts of the state have a sizable area under forest.
The districts of Panchmahals and Sabarkantha in north east Gujarat and Junagadh in Saurashtra are other important areas of forest cover. The south and south-eastern parts of the state support the growth of a tropical deciduous forest typified by teak, shorea robusta for which the district of Bulsar is well known. The forest of the state can be divided into the following broad categories, depending upon their environmental adjustments and the general morphological character of the representative species.
Moist Deciduous Forests:
Moist Deciduous Forests occur in Dangs and parts of Vyara in Surat division. These forests are not evergreen and shed their leaves during March and April, through the under-wood and shrub cover are fairly green. Teak is an important species which drops its leaves only in the cold weather in localities which are relatively dry or cold, but is almost evergreen in the moistest parts of its distribution.
Teak needs a moderately good rainfall and a well-drained terrain. The associates of teak in the moist deciduous forests are Terminalia tomestosa and Anogeissus latifolia.
Dry Deciduous Forests:
There are a mixed growth of trees which are deciduous during the dry season. The lower canopy in these forests is also deciduous with occasional evergreen or sub greens being present in the moister area. There is an undergrowth of shrubs, but the light reaches the surface allowing the growth of grass which occasionally develops into a savanna-type grass field.
Bamboos are not luxuriant. Other trees of the dry deciduous forests are teak, Boswellia serrata, Anogeissus latifolia and Diospyros malanoxylon. Dry deciduous forests with teak occur in north-east Gujarat, particularly in Sabarkantha district. The forests of Junagadh are valuable for their yield of timber and of grass growing on their outer margin.
Thorny Forests With the decreasing ainfall in the drier north the forests turn thorny and tend to assume a xerophytic character. Such forests occurring either in Kutch or north Saurashtra and Banaskantha district are characterised by Acacia arabica, Acacia leucophloea, Capparis ophylla, Zizyphus mauratiana etc. The thorny forests of north Gujarat are sparse and provide sites for cattle-grazing. There are bamboo plantations but there are virtually no trees that can yield timber.
The most common variety of Bamboo is Dendorocalamus. The most luxuriant bambOo occur in the interior of the Dangs forests. The density is guided essentially by rainfall. There are larges- tands of bamboo in South Gujarat than in the North.