Forests of Himachal Pradesh

Great Himalayan National Park
Great Himalayan National Park/Wikimedia
Himachal Pradesh is a mountaineous state int the Western Himalayas region of India. It has a total area of 55673 square kilometers and its altitude varies from 350 m to 6975 m above the mean sea level.

As of 2019, 37948 sq km, about 68.16 per cent is recorded forest area in the state. Out of which, reserved forest area accounts for 1883 sq km (4.96%), protected forests (both demarcated and un-demarcated) accounts for 28887 sq km (76.12%) and other forests which include Unclassed forests, Shamlats, Co-operative forests, Charagah billa drakhtan and strip forests accounts for 7160 sq km (18.87%) of total forest area.

However a large portion of this area is not conducive for tree growth being under permanent snow, glacier and cold deserts.

In terms of protected areas, Himachal Pradesh has 5 National Parks and 32 wildlife sanctuaries. The Great Himalayan National Park is one of the five national parks in the state.

Forest Cover
As of FSI 2017 report, the forest cover of Himachal Pradesh on the basis of satellite data is 15100 sq km, which roughly translates into 27.12 per cent of total geographical area of Himachal Pradesh.

In terms of forest canopy, the state has area under very dense forest is 3110 sq km, area under moderate dense forest is 6705 sq km and area under open forest is 5285 sq km.

It may seem total area under forest cover has increased from 14769 sq km in 2011 to 15100 sq km in 2017, but area under very dense forest has decreased from 3224 sq km to 3110 sq km.

District Wise Forest Cover of Himachal Pradesh

DistrictGeographical AreaVery Dense ForestMod. Desne ForestOpen ForestTotal
Lahul Spiti138411531147193

Types of Forest in Himachal Pradesh

On the basis of vegetation, the forests of Himachal Pradesh has been classified into 8 categories. These are

Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests
These forests are found near bordering areas of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab near Sirmaur and Shiwalik hills at an altitude above 1000 m and register a rainfall between 750 and 1250 mm per year. The main flora species of these forests are Sal and Shisham.

Subtropical Pine Forests
These forests lie between 1000 m and 1800 m and found in districts of Mandi, Shimla, Kinnaur, Chamba and Kangra. They register a rainfall of 900  to 2500 mm  on yearly basis and dominated  by Pine and Chir trees.

Subtropical Dry Evergreen Forests
These forests are mainly found in Mandi district, a region which extend up to 1000 m above mean sea level. These forests consist mainly of  xerophytic plants having thorny and small leaved evergreen species. Common tree species of these forests are Himalayan Pear and Amritsari Gum.

Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests
These forests are mainly found in the districts of Shimla, Mandi, Kullu and Chamba at an altitude between 1500 to 3300 m. Major species are Oak, Rhododendron, Maple, Chestnut, Cedar, Walnut along with Himalayan Clematis and Indigo.

Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests
These forests are mainly found at an altitude of 1700 m upward. Some of the main trees in these forests are Blue pine, Rai, Himalayan Juniper, Himalayan Poplar, Alder and Oak.

Sub–Alpine Forests
These forest are found at the atltitude between 2900 to 3500 m and dominated by conifers such as Himalayan fir, Himalayan White Pine,  Devidiar with some deciduous trees like Himalayan Birch, Banj and Burans.

Moist Alpine Scrubs
These forests are found at altitude above 3350  m, where cold dry conditions prevail. Some of the prominent vegetation include Indian barbeey (chutro), Himalayan Honeysuckle, Cotoneaster, and Astragalus

Dry Alpine Scrubs
This type of vegetation is predominantly found in cold desert region ranging at an elevation of 6000 m. Many of these shrubs have high medicinal  value. Some of the dominant shrubs are Himalayan Juniper, Ephedra, Myricaria and Oriental Gooseberry.

Source: HP Forest