The loss of forest area in the country has been a high six per cent between 1975 and 2005, according to a study by the city-based National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC). The analysis also found that in all bio-geographic zones, like the Himalayas, Deccan Plateau and Eastern Ghats, more than 90 per cent of the total forest area is fragmented, consisting of patches of forest of less than one square kilometre.
Earlier studies have suggested that many medicinal plants and plants exclusive to the sub-continent have been lost in central Indian districts like Karimnagar due to the fragmentation of forests.
The NRSC study said that the Deccan Plateau and Eastern Ghats have the highest proportion of core forest areas. The total core area was highest for islands, at 87.4 per cent, followed by the Eastern Himalayas (82.5 per cent), Deccan Plateau (78.9 per cent), deserts (76.4 per cent) and Eastern Ghats with 76 per cent.
The study also claims that loss of forest area throughout the country between 1975 and 2005 was 5.8 per cent, while the annual rate was 0.2 per cent. C. Sudhak-ar Reddy, an NRSC scientist, said, “It is a moderate rate of deforestation, but the time period makes a difference. If you look at just one year, then there might be little deforestation.”
Forest fragmentation occurs when there is human intervention to change the landscape, or naturally due to forest fires. As a result, there are only patches of forests left and the continuity is lost. A study by the University of Hyderabad and the NRSC showed that about 67.28 per cent core forest area was still intact.
Districts like Karimnagar showed extremely high levels of degradation. Dr P.S. Roy, chair professor, University Centre for Earth and Space Sciences, University of Hyderabad, said, “Our most significant finding was the extreme fragmentation in central Indian forests. Districts like Karimnagar are heavily affected and biodiversity is degraded due to this.” He said that the higher the fragmentation, the lower is the biodiversity.
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