The forest cover in 52 tiger reserves is 55,666.27 sq km, which is 7.80 per cent of India’s total forest cover and 74.51 per cent of the total area of tiger reserves, according to the India State of Forest Report 2021 (ISFR 2021) released yesterday.
The tiger reserves occupy an area of approximately 74,710.53 sq km, which is 2.27 per cent of India’s total geographical area.
This came out in the special feature of the biennial ISFR 2021 that carried out an ‘Assessment of Forest Cover in Tiger Reserves and Lion Conservation Areas of India’s long with mapping the forest cover in tiger corridors and also accounting for wetlands within the tiger reserves for the first time.
In terms of canopy density classes, the area covered by very dense forest is 16,444.51 sq km (22.01 per cent), moderately dense forest is 26,856.71 sq km (25.95 per cent) and open forest is 12,365.05 sq km (16.55 per cent). Scrub occupies a total area of 1,339.58 sq km (1.79 per cent) of these tiger reserves.
Across India, percentage wise total forest cover with respect to the area of digitised tiger reserve boundary shows that Pakke (Arunachal Pradesh) has the largest forest cover at 96.83 per cent.
The other tiger reserves that have forest cover of more than 90 per cent are: Achanakmar (Chhattisgarh) 95.63 per cent, Simplipal (Odisha) 94.17 per cent, Kali (Karnataka) 92.45 per cent, Dampa (Mizoram) 92.05 per cent, Mudumalai (Tamil Nadu) 91.88 per cent, Melghat (Maharashtra) 91.05 per cent, Bor (Maharashtra) 91.01 per cent, and Kamlang (Arunachal Pradesh) 90.02 per cent.
The largest forest cover, in terms of sheer area, is recorded for Nagarjun Sagar Srisailam tiger reserve (Andhra Pradesh) with 2,932.95 sq km, followed by Simplipal (Odisha) having 2,562.86 sq km, and Indravati (Chhattisgarh) having 2,377.28 sq km of forest cover.
When it comes to decadal change, between 2011 and 2021, the forest cover has decreased by 22.62 sq km (0.04 per cent) wherein as many as 20 tiger reserves have recorded an overall gain in forest cover during past decade whereas 32 have recorded an overall loss of forest over.
The top ones among those that have recorded gain in forest cover are Buxa (238.80 sq km), Annamalai (120.78 sq km), and Indravati (64.48 sq km) while the top ones with losses are Kawal (- 118.97 sq km), Bhadra (- 53.09 sq km), and Sundarbans (- 49.95 sq km).
The tiger corridors occupy 14,289.37 sq km area approximately, which is 0.43 per cent of the total area. Forest cover in tiger corridors is 11,572.12 sq km, which is 1.62 per cent of the country’s forest cover.
Kanha-Nagzira-Tadoba-Indravati tiger corridor, passing through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh, has the largest forest cover of 2,012.26 sq km, which is 86.50 per cent of the area of that tiger corridor.
Between 2011 to 2021, the forest cover has increased by 37.15 sq km (0.32 per cent) in the tiger corridors.
The ISFR 2021 also recorded for the first time all the wetlands within the tiger reserves. There are 5,821 wetlands over a total area of 5,382.89 sq km, which is 7.20 per cent of the total area of tiger reserves.
The Sundarban tiger reserve has the largest area under wetlands (2,549.44 sq km) accounting for its 96.76 per cent area; mostly coastal wetlands. Kanha Tiger Reserve has the highest number of wetlands, 461, most of which are less than 2.25 Ha in size, the ISFR 2021 said.