, Volume 39, Issue 2-3, pp 563-581

Climate Change and Tropical Forests in India

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Abstract

India has 64 Mha under forests, of which 72% are tropical moist deciduous, dry deciduous, and wet evergreen forest. Projected changes in temperature, rainfall, and soil moisture are considered at regional level for India under two scenarios, the first involving greenhouse gas forcing, and the second, sulphate aerosols. Under the former model, a general increase in temperature and rainfall in all regions is indicated. This could potentially result in increased productivity, and shift forest type boundaries along attitudinal and rainfall gradients, with species migrating from lower to higher elevations and the drier forest types being transformed to moister types. The aerosol model, however, indicates a more modest increase in temperature and a decrease in precipitation in central and northern India, which would considerably stress the forests in these regions.

Although India seems to have stabilized the area under forest since 1980, anthropogenic stresses such as livestock pressure, biomass demand for fuelwood and timber, and the fragmented nature of forests will all affect forest response to changing climate. Thus, forest area is unlikely to expand even if climatically suitable, and will probably decrease in parts of northeast India due to extensive shifting cultivation and deforestation. A number of general adaptation measures to climate change are listed.