, Volume 118, Issue 1-2, pp 39-48

Inventory and classification of wetlands in India

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The Indian subcontinent has a large variety of freshwater, saline and marine wetlands. Whereas the mangroves are relatively well documented, very little is known about the other wetlands, with few exceptions. Only recently an inventory of these welands has been prepared but no effort has been made to classify them. A vast majority of the inland wetlands are temporary and/or man-made, and they have been traditionally used and managed by the local human populations. In this paper, first, we evaluate the classification schemes of the IUCN, US Fish and Wildlife Services and those of the Australian wetlands, for their applicability to Indian wetlands. Then, we propose a simple hierarchical classification of wetlands based on their location (coastal or inland), salinity (saline or freshwater), physiognomy (herbaceous or woody), duration of flooding (permanent or seasonal) and the growth forms of the dominant vegetation. We stress upon the hydrological factors which determine all the structural and functional characteristics of the wetlands. We consider that the various growth forms of wetland vegetation integrate the totality of hydrological variables and therefore, can be used as the indicators of different hydrological regimes.