Friday, December 2, 2022
West Bengal

Land- Geography of West Bengal

Natural Vegetation

Natural Vegitation

Forests of three distinct areas exist in the state. These are the forests of the north which include the mountain temperate forests and the tropical forests of the Duars, the deciduous forests of the plateau fringe and the mangrove forests of Sunderbans. Of  these the northern forests are the most important.

Forests of the Darjeeling Hills

These forests are related to altitude and aspect. Below 1000 metres there are tropical evergreen forests. Above 1000 metres the effect of altitude is definitely  felt. Subtropical forests are found in between 1000 and 1500 metres. Terminalia, Cedrela, Michelia, Various laurels and Bamboos are found in this belt. 

Temperate forests are found from 1500 to 3000 metres. They contain some varieties of oaks and conifers. Magnolia campbellii and large rhododendrons tree are also found in this belt. Much of this forest area has been cleared for tea gardens around Darjeeling and Kurseong. Beech and birch are found in many areas. Conifers  are found in slightly higher situations. There are dense forests of deodars nearly all along the Dow Hill ridge which continue up to Senchal, and clothe the entire Tiger Hill. Birches are found  all round Darjeeling. There are few deodars on the Ghoom ridge, where oaks are more common. Due to the occurrence of mists on the southern slopes, the trees are covered with mosses and orchids. Many kinds of sweet temperate berries are also found in the undergrowth. Magnolias and oaks occur around Kalimpong while conifers cover higher slopes and peaks. Above 3000 metres, silver fir is very common. It is common in the Singalila Range. Dwarf rhododendrons also occur here. Higher up are Alpine meadows, smell bushes and flowering plants.

Tropical Mixed Evergreen Forests of the Foot Hills

Royal Bengal Tiger

Some of the most dense forests of West Bengal occur in the foothills of the Himalayas. Many of them are protected. They are generally well managed and properly exploited. Much of this forest is moist deciduous and here sal (shorea robusta) is the most common and valuable tree. Other common tree associated with sal  forests are Champa (Michelia Champaea) and Chilauni (Schima Wallichii), Khair, Gamar and toon. Bamboo is also found here. Vistas of tall grasses grow  along the rivers. Evergreen laurels and other moisture loving plants are found mixed up with the deciduous forests. 

A broad belt of these forests stretches along the entire length of the northern districts. It is broader towards the east in the Duars. Here low-level tea gardens have taken a heavy toll of the forests. Corridors of these forests penetrate the hills along the river gorges of Mechi, Balason, Mahanadi, Tista, Jaldhaka and many other smaller streams.

This forest is very dense. There is much undergrowth of shrubs and bushes. Orchids cling to the trees and giant creepers form a tangled mass of impenetrable vegetation. Wild animals abound in the jungles which include the rare one-horned Indian rhinoceros, the elephant and the Bengal tiger. Sanctuaries have been provided for them at Mahananda, Gorumara (National Park), Chapramari, Neora Valley (National Park), Jaldapara and Buxa (Tiger Reserve). 

Soils of these forests are naturally rich in humus. Along the river beds the soils are found in broad belts of sterile sands and pebbles. At some places high banks of these gravels are found.