Explained: Tree cover, forest cover – How are the two different?

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Difference between Tree Cover & Forest Cover

Mains level: Issues related to the clearances of forest lands


News

  • The Economic Survey of Delhi 2018-19, released last week, states that the capital’s forest cover has increased from 12.72% of its geographical area in 2015 to 12.97% in 2017 while its tree cover has increased from 7.48% to 7.62%.

Tree Cover & Forest Cover

  • The MoEFCC defines ‘forest cover’ in India as all lands, more than one hectare in area with a tree canopy density of more than 10%.
  • The ‘tree cover’ is defined as tree patches outside recorded forest areas exclusive of forest cover and less than the minimum mappable area of one hectare.

Trees outsides Forest

  • Between these two is a third measure, called ‘trees outside forest’, or TOF.
  • The ‘India State of Forest Report 2017’ defines TOF as “trees existing outside the recorded forest area in the form of block, linear & scattered size of patches”.
  • Since tree cover measures only non-forest patches that are less than 1 hectare, it is only a part of TOF.

Statewise cover

  • The India Report, as well as the Delhi Survey, cites state-wise figures, which show that Goa has the highest tree cover as a percentage of geographical area, at 8.73%, followed by Delhi and Kerala, both at 7.62%.
  • Forest cover highs are in Lakshadweep (90.33%) and Mizoram (86.27%). India has 93,815 hectares, or 2.85% of its area, under tree cover, and 7.08 lakh ha (21.54%) under forest cover.

Back2Basics

Forest Cover Classification

  • Classification scheme for the purpose of Forest Cover assessment is described as follows:
Class Description
Very Dense Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 70% and above.
Moderately Dense Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 40% and more but less than 70%.
Open Forest All lands with tree canopy density of 10% and more but less than 40%.
Scrub Degraded forest lands with canopy density less than 10%.
Non-forest Lands not included in any of the above classes.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.
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