Forest Survey report 2021: Over 45% of India’s forests will become ‘climate hotspots’ by 2030

By 2050, 64% of India’s forest and tree cover is likely to face ‘high severity’ of climate change

By Kiran Pandey
Published: Wednesday 19 January 2022

Nearly half of India’s forest and tree cover (315,667 square kilometres, or 45 per cent) can emerge as ‘climate hotspots’ — areas expected to be affected by climate change — the Forest Survey of India (FSI) warned in its latest assessment.

By 2030, 315,667 square kilometres (sq km) or 45 per cent of India’s forest and tree cover are set to emerge as ‘climate hotspots’. Climate hotspot is an area expected to be adversely impacted by climate change, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) said in its latest assessment on forests for 2021 released January 13, 2022.

By 2050, 448,367 sq km or 64 per cent of India’s forest and tree cover is likely to face the ‘high severity’ of climate change, the report titled State of India’s Forests Report, 2021 (SoFR, 2021), said.

High severity means that India’s green cover is expected to see a rise in temperature between the range of 1.5 and 2.1 degrees Celsius. Climate change hotspots will also see a change in rainfall patterns with an increase or decrease of 20-26 per cent, the SoFR, 2021, said. 

These projections are based on the collaborative study between FSI and the BITS, Pilani (Goa Campus) to map climate hotspots in the forest areas of the country.

The study made use of the computer model-based projections of temperature and rainfall in three ‘time horizons’ — 2030, 2050 and 2085.

Over 55 per cent of India’s tropical dry deciduous forests, the top most dominant type of forests, will be severely affected by climate change.

Of 313,617 sq km, 172,719 sq km will be highly vulnerable to climate change. These forests occur in the region with very low rainfall of 100-150 centimetres, with five to six dry months.

Thus, 84 per cent of Chhattisgarh’s forest area is most likely to become a climate hotspot. In Madhya Pradesh, 65 per cent of the area under forests will be vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Tropical moist deciduous forests and tropical semi-evergreen forests, the second and third most prominent type of forests too are highly vulnerable. Some 47 per cent and 40 per cent of the tropical moist deciduous forests and tropical semi-evergreen forests respectively will be affected by climate change.

The entire area under the top three dominating forest types covering a total of 520,280 sq km will fall under climate change hotspots from 2050 onwards.

Hence, forests in large parts of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the northern part of Odisha and western part of Jharkhand will be impacted by adverse impacts of climate change from 2050 onwards, the biennial forests report said.

Forest type Total area (in sq km, in 2019) Area falling within climate hotspot in 2030 (in %) Area falling within climate hotspot in 2050 (in %) Area falling within climate hotspot in 2085 (in %)
Tropical wet evergreen forest 20,054 22.18 81.49 98.32
Tropical semi-evergreen forest 71,171 40.07 100.00 100.00
Tropical moist deciduous forest 135,492 47.19 100.00 100.00
Littoral and swamp forest 5,596 9.69 68.05 100.00
Tropical dry deciduous forest 313,617 55.07 100.00 100.00
Tropical thorn forest 20,877 46.64 76.74 76.76
Tropical dry evergreen forest 937 0.64 95.62 95.62
Sub-tropical broad leaved hill forest 32,706 15.09 64.56 64.56
Sub-tropical pine forest 18,102 93.66 99.76 99.99
Sub-tropical dry evergreen forest 180 100.00 100.00 100.00
Montane wet temperate forest 20,435 5.08 26.10 26.10
Himalayan moist temperate forest 25,743 100.00 100.00 100.00
Himalayan dry temperate forest 5,627 100.00 100.00 100.00
Sub-alpine forest 14,995 99.14 100.00 100.00
Moist alpine scrub 959 100.00 100.00 100.00
Dry alpine scrub 29,22 100.00 100.00 100.00

Source: State of India’s Forests Report, 2021

The results of the climate change hotspot study presented for the first time in the report is relevant for state forest departments in designing mitigation and adaptation programmes for forest areas under their management.

“This serves as the baseline for state governments to incorporate climate change in their land and development policies,” Chandra Prakash Goyal, director-general of forests, Union environment ministry, said in his foreword. 

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