Identify and discuss the factors responsible for diversity of Natural Vegetation in India. Assess the significance of wildlife sanctuaries in rainforest regions of India.


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The question Identify and discuss the factors responsible for diversity of Natural Vegetation in India. Assess the significance of wildlife sanctuaries in rainforest regions of India." was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 1.  Let us look at the model answer to this question.

Answer: A plant community that has grown naturally over time and without human intervention is referred to as "natural vegetation." India is one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries of the world. With 6% of the world's flowering plant species, India ranks tenth in the world and fourth in Asia in terms of plant diversity.

Factors responsible for the diversity of Natural Vegetation in India

  • Geographical extent and Topography:
    • India's vast geographical expanse encompasses a wide range of topographical features, including mountains, plateaus, plains, and coastal areas. Each of these regions supports distinct types of vegetation adapted to their specific environmental conditions.
    • Topography influences climatic conditions, soil formation, runoff, erosion, and seed migration all of which contribute to the distribution of vegetation.
  • Climatic variations: There is diversity in vegetation due to varied climatic conditions like different rainfall patterns, temperature, and humidity, etc. India experiences a diverse range of climates, from the tropical climate in the south to the alpine climate in the Himalayan region.
  • Monsoon Influence: The seasonal monsoon winds bring heavy rainfall to various parts of India significantly impacting the distribution and growth of vegetation.
    • Because of the southwest monsoon rains, tropical evergreen forests grow rapidly on the western slopes of the Western Ghats, but not on the eastern slopes.
  • Temperature gradients: It depends on latitude, altitude, season, and duration of the sunlight. Due to the longer duration of sunlight, trees grow faster in summer.
    • Example, On the slopes of the Himalayas , the fall in the temperature affects the type of vegetation and its growth and changes it from tropical to subtropical, temperate, and alpine vegetation.
  • Soil composition: Soil factors vary across locations, as different types of soil support different types of vegetation and plants.
    • For example: Thar Desert's sandy soils support drought-tolerant plants, while the Ganga-Brahmaputra plains' alluvial fertile soils support a wide variety of crops.
  • Anthropological interventions: Over using the resources of a particular vegetation by humans can change its feature, hence they play an important role in deciding the diversity of a region.
    • For example, some less dense forests in India have been changed to grasslands due to excessive grazing.
  • Biodiversity Hotspots: India is home to several globally recognized biodiversity hotspots, including the Western Ghats and the Eastern Himalayas. These regions are characterized by high species endemism and contribute significantly to the overall diversity of natural vegetation.

Significance of wildlife sanctuaries in rainforest regions of India

  • Rainforest conservation against the developmental aspects: Degradation, destruction and fragmentation due to development needs, and conversion of land for agricultural/commercial purposes are the major three threats that rainforests face today as in the case of amazon rainforests. So, to safeguard the precious ecosystems and diverse wildlife therein, it is imperative that we establish national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Biodiversity in the rainforest regions is very high therefore, wildlife sanctuaries in these regions provide a safe haven for endemic and endangered species, protecting them from poaching, habitat loss, and other threats.
    • For example: Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary of Assam is home to various animals like the Asian Elephants, and Bengal Tiger.
  • Cultural preservation: Indigenous peoples residing in rainforests, shaped their civilizations and cultures based on their living environment. Wildlife sanctuaries aid in the preservation of these traditions.
  • Provide Local Economic benefits and Ecotourism: Many protected areas are hotspots for ecotourism, bringing new revenue that directly benefits communities through employment in the protected area or within an industry supporting tourism.
  • Climate Change Mitigation: Tropical rainforests in wildlife sanctuaries are also important because they sequester carbon dioxide, which is critical for world’s climate regulation, and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The natural vegetation and wildlife sanctuaries have helped maintain the forest cover of India and the rich biodiversity of the rainforest is incredibly important for the well-being of our planet. India's natural vegetation conservation is crucial for preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services, requiring the reduction of deforestation, protection of protected areas, and promotion of sustainable forest management practices.