While the definition of forest remains ambiguous, felling continues to be a major contributor to climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, around 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions are caused by land-use change or deforestation, mostly driven by population growth and agricultural expansion.
In December, two scientific publications showed the extent of forest cover in India. A study published in Biodiversity and Conservation, an international journal, shows a net loss of 243,447 sq. km (28%) in eight decades. According to the Forest Survey of India’s (FSI) biennial report for 2015, India’s forest cover increased from 640,819 sq km (64.08 Mha) in 1987 to 701,673 sq km (70.17 Mha).
The FSI report does not make any distinction between the origins of forest. It includes all land with a tree canopy density of 10% and above and a minimum mapping unit of one hectare.
A forest is defined as land spanning more than 1 ha, dominated with native tree species having a minimum stand height of 5 m with an over storey canopy cover greater than 10% in the study published in Biodiversity and Conservation, Springer.
Forest cover change map of India
Areal extent of forest cover
Annual rate of forest cover change
Areal extent of forest cover in biogeographic zones
Source 1: Quantification and monitoring of deforestation in India over eight decades (1930–2013) published December 2015 – Biodiversity and Conservation, Springer, an international science journal by C. Sudhakar Reddy, C. S. Jha, V. K. Dadhwal, P. Hari Krishna, S. Vazeed Pasha, K. V. Satish, Kalloli Dutta, K. R. L. Saranya, F. Rakesh, G. Rajashekar and P. G. Diwakar
Forest cover of India in 2015
Forest cover change matrix for India between ISFR 2013 and ISFR 2015
Source 2: Forest Survey of India (FSI) biennial report (December 2015)
Graphics by Ahmed Raza Khan/Mint.