From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : India State of Forest Report, 2021
Mains level : Read the attached story
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021.
About India State of Forest Report
- ISFR is an assessment of India’s forest and tree cover, published every two years by the Forest Survey of India under the MoEFCC.
- The first survey was published in 1987, and ISFR 2021 is the 17th.
- It compiles data computed through wall-to-wall mapping of India’s forest cover through remote sensing techniques.
Why need ISFR?
- It is used in planning and formulation of policies in forest management as well as forestry and agroforestry sectors.
How are forests categorized?
The Forest Survey of India has listed four categories of forests. They are:
- Very Dense Forest (with tree canopy density of 70 per cent or above)
- Moderately Dense Forest (tree canopy density of 40 per cent or above but less than 70 per cent)
- Open Forest (tree canopy density of 10 per cent or above but less than 40 per cent)
- Scrub (tree canopy density less than 10 per cent)
Highlights of the ISFR, 2021
 Forest cover is increasing
- ISFR 2021 has found that the forest and tree cover in the country continues to increase with an additional cover of 1,540 square kilometres over the past two years.
- India’s forest cover is now 7,13,789 square kilometres, 21.71% of the country’s geographical area, an increase from 21.67% in 2019.
- Tree cover has increased by 721 sq km.
- Bamboo forests have grown from 13,882 million culms (stems) in 2019 to 53,336 million culms in 2021.
 State-wise gain/losses
- The states that have shown the highest increase in forest cover are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
- The Northeast states account for 7.98% of total geographical area but 23.75% of total forest cover.
- Five states in the Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have all shown loss in forest cover.
- The report has attributed the decline in the NE states to a spate of natural calamities, particularly landslides and heavy rains, in the region as well as to anthropogenic activities.
 Increase in Mangrove cover
- Mangroves have shown an increase of 17 sq km. India’s total mangrove cover is now 4,992 sq km.
 Increase in carbon stock
- The total carbon stock in country’s forests is estimated at 7,204 million tonnes, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes since 2019.
 Big cats population
- ISFR 2021 has some new features. It has for the first time assessed forest cover in tiger reserves, tiger corridors and the Gir forest which houses the Asiatic lion.
- The forest cover in tiger corridors has increased by 37.15 sq km (0.32%) between 2011-2021, but decreased by 22.6 sq km (0.04%) in tiger reserves.
- Buxa, Anamalai and Indravati reserves have shown an increase in forest cover while the highest losses have been found in Kawal, Bhadra and the Sunderbans reserves.
- Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh has the highest forest cover, at nearly 97%.
 Impact of climate change
- The report estimates that by 2030, 45-64% of forests in India will experience the effects of climate change and rising temperatures, and forests in all states will be highly vulnerable climate hot spots.
- Ladakh (forest cover 0.1-0.2%) is likely to be the most affected.
- India’s forests are already showing shifting trends of vegetation types, such as Sikkim which has shown a shift in its vegetation pattern for 124 endemic species.
 Forest fires
- The survey has found that 35.46 % of the forest cover is prone to forest fires.
- Out of this, 2.81 % is extremely prone, 7.85% is very highly prone and 11.51 % is highly prone
- The highest numbers of fires were detected in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Concerns with the declining trends
- It is worrying that a 1,582 sq km decline was in moderately dense forests, or “natural forests”.
- This decline shows a degradation of forests in the country, say experts, with natural forests degrading to less dense open forests.
- Also, scrub area has increased by 5,320 sq km – indicating the complete degradation of forests in these areas.