The Vegetation:  General Description and Condition of The Forests

The forests of Melghat Tiger Project are classified as “Dry Deciduous Forests” in the Champion and Seths’’ Revised Survey of Forest types of India” and fall under the sub-group 5-A “southern tropical dry deciduous forests.”  Most dominant tree species is Teak.  Other timber species are Tiwas, Bija, Haldu, Saja, Dhawda, Ain, Lendia etc.  Other important trees producing NTFP are Moha, Tendu, Achar, Amla, Behada, Bhilawa, Bor, Mango, Khair, Jamun, Apta, Bel, Kulu etc.  Weeds like Tarota, Achyranthus, Rantulsi, Lantana etc form a thick undergrowth and are partly detrimental to tree regeneration.
  The tract being sparsely populated, the biotic factors are less influential except fires which along with general distribution of rainfall, aspect and change in depth and nature of soil are responsible in determining the local variations within the above broad type.  The area north of main Gawilgarh ridge which receives rainfall higher than the part south of it, bears a good growth.  Within this area, the better growth is confined to the northern aspects of the lower gentle slopes and in valleys having flood drainage pattern.  Besides receiving less rain fall, the southern part of the region is also subjected to frequent fires, often twice in a year and bear more open forests with specie rather resistant to fire.  The species with corky bark like Semal   (Bombax ceiba ) survives the fire and their percentage in the stand increases.  Fire and biotic interference have increased the percentage of species like Zizyphus, Stereospermum, Dalbergia sissoo and Diospyros in the forests because of their capacity to produce root sucker, an adventitious shoot from extensively branched under ground root system.  Similarly, the teak forests here owe their existence to the remarkable power of the species to withstand repeated burning and to establish itself on burnt grass land.  The purity of the present teak forests is largely attributable to the fact that its natural associates are less resistant, and none of them appears to be able to establish in high forest in repeatedly burnt area.  As the fire sweeps in, the bark of teak, having low conductivity prevents the damage of the cambium and phloem and helps in survival of the tree.
The geological formation and the soil largely determine the type of vegetation it is going to support.  The most of the area has the soil of trap origin.  These soils are rich in mineral and have a high water holding capacity.  They have a high rate of exchangeable calcium and ph varying from 6.5 to 7.5 thus supporting the best form of teak.  Alluvial deposits along Tapti in Rangubeli and Dhakna support good teak forests along with bamboos.   Teak needs a good quantum of moisture to support its long growing season.  The places at ballas or on slopes, where the moisture condition deteriorates, the teak is soon replaced by Salai (Boswellia serrata) and Tiwas (Ougeinia oogeinensis)

Information about Past Management
West Melghat Division working plan (2008-09 to 2017-18) mentiones that in the year 1884 the Commissioner of Berar ordered that certain teak trees be selected and conserved in the forests.  The selected trees were marked with red paint and not allowed to be felled by the local population.  A small establishment costing Rs. 32.50 per month was sanctioned for the purpose and a written report in 1884 shows that over 12,900 teak trees were selected and marked by the year 1862 within the limits of 14 villages where the best Teak timber was found.  These villages were situated in the areas now comprising Semadoh range and part of old Raipur Range.  These areas still contain best of teak forests, at present part of it is with project tiger.
It is mentioned in the working plans prepared for Melghat forests that natural regeneration of teak is inadequate.  The main reasons for the poor natural regeneration appears to be fires and heavy uncontrolled grazing.  Due to fire teak dies back and coppices next year.  It is reported that teak establishment is fairly better than miscellaneous species.
All the past working plans prepared for Melghat forests mention that “the method of treatment was aimed at the production of big sized timber.  The natural regeneration and advance growth of teak, wherever present, was to be helped to grow up and it was to be supplemented by as much planting as possible.”  Therefore no open space remained in the area for the development of a good patch of grasses like that in Terai region.  This has resulted in availability of less habitat for the herbivore population.  In all the working plans written for Melghat area, no emphasis is made upon the impact of teak crop on wildlife. 

Forest Types
  For the purpose of description, the forests are distinguished in the following sub types, according to Champion and Seth‘s classification-

Forest Types Champion and Seth’s classification
Sub group 5 A Southern Tropical Dry deciduous forests
a)  Climax types  
  1. 5A/C1
  2. 5A/C1 a
  3. 5A/C1b
  4. 5A/C-3

Dry teak bearing forests.
Very dry teak forests.
Dry teak forests.
Southern dry mixed deciduous forests

b)   Edaphic type  
i)          5/E-2 Boswellia Forest.
ii)          5/E-5 Butea Forests.

c)  degradation State-5/d   S 1    

Dry deciduous scrub.

d)  Primay seral type-5/1   s 1

Dry tropical reverain forests.

e)   Working plan type
i)    Tiwas forests
ii)   Mixed forests.

Edapho-biotic type.

The data collected from 61 vegetation monitoring plots spread in remote and undisturbed area as well as areas situated near habitations and areas open to grazing and other use by human population in Sanctuary area, was analyzed for the trend of the growth in number of species as well as their occurrence per unit area.  It has been observed that the area in National Park as well as areas undisturbed and free from human use have recorded a density of 25 to 28 floral species per hectare.   Where as the areas which were disturbed near habitation or the areas on degraded ridges or plateaus have shown density of 12-15 species per hectare.  This shows that diversity is maximum where the areas are fully protected.  Number of species has also increased 2-4 per hectare in the P.A.s which shows that rigid protection results in increase of biodiversity.  Detailed analysis on the subject further may reveal more interesting and valuable findings.

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