Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 - UPSC Notes - Indian Geography

Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021 – UPSC Notes – Indian Geography

The 17th biennial assessment of India’s forests is conducted by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), an organization under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The Indian State of Forest Report ISFR 2021 provides the latest status of ‘Forest cover’ and ‘Tree cover’ in the country, along with estimates of growing stock, the extent of trees outside forests, mangrove cover, bamboo resources, and assessment of forest carbon stock.

  • A special chapter focuses on “Forest Cover assessment in Tiger reserves and Tiger corridor areas” and highlights the decadal change in Forest Cover.
  • Two special studies are featured: Above Ground Biomass Estimation using Synthetic Aperture Radar data (in collaboration with ISRO) and Climate hot spots in forest areas studies (in collaboration with BITS Pilani, Goa campus).
  • The report presents new initiatives undertaken by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) team over the last two years in a dedicated chapter.
  • The progress of India towards achieving the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commitments is covered in the chapter on Forest carbon assessment.

Key Findings

  • The Total Forest and Tree cover constitutes 24.62% of the country’s geographical area.
  • The Total Forest cover spans 7,13,789 sq km, accounting for 21.71% of the country’s geographical area.
  • The Tree cover encompasses 2.91% of the country’s geographical area.
  • Compared to ISFR 2019, the current assessment indicates an overall increase of 0.28% in forest and tree cover at the national level.
    • Forest Cover: An increase of 0.22%
    • Tree Cover: An increase of 0.76%
  • Change in Recorded forest Area/Green Wash (RFA/GW) in comparison to the 2019 assessment:
    • Forest Cover within the RFA/GW: A slight increase of 31 sq km
    • Forest Cover outside the RFA/GW: An increase of 1,509 sq km
  • Top five states with the highest increase in forest cover: Andhra Pradesh > Telangana > Odisha > Karnataka > Jharkhand.
  • Forest cover in hill districts is 40.17% of the total geographical area, with a decrease of 902 sq km (0.32%) in 140 hill districts.
  • Total forest cover in tribal districts is 37.53% of the geographical area, with a decrease of 655 sq km inside the RFA/GW and an increase of 600 sq km outside.
  • Total forest cover in the North-Eastern region is 64.66% of its geographical area, showing a decrease of 1,020 sq km (0.60%).
  • Mangrove cover: Increased by 0.34% compared to the previous assessment.
  • Total Carbon Stock: Estimated at 7,204.0 million tonnes, reflecting an increase of 79.4 million tonnes since 2019.
  • Forest Prone to Fire: Analysis reveals 22.27% of the forest cover is prone to forest fire.
  • Bamboo Forests: The total bamboo bearing area is estimated as 1,49,443 sq km, with a decrease of 10,594 sq km compared to ISFR 2019.

Chapter 1- Introduction

  • Forest Cover: Encompasses the canopy area on the ground, irrespective of land legal status, including all tree patches with a canopy density exceeding 10% and an area of 1 ha or more.
  • Canopy Density: The proportion of an area covered by the crown of trees on the field/ground.
  • Recorded Forest Area (RFA): All geographic areas recorded as forest in government records, comprising Reserved Forests (RF) and Protected Forests (PF) established under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Additionally, areas recorded as forests under State Acts, local laws, or revenue records may be included.
  • TOF (Trees Outside Forest): Trees outside recorded forest areas, irrespective of patch size, including those larger than 1 ha.
  • Tree Cover: Includes all patches of trees outside RFA, less than 1 ha in size, including scattered trees. A subset of Trees Outside Forests (TOF).
  • Forest & Tree Cover: The combined ‘Forest cover’ and ‘tree cover,’ a crucial parameter for monitoring progress according to the National Forest Policy’s goal of achieving 33% green cover over the country’s geographical area.

Chapter 2- Forest Cover

  • The National Forest Policy of India, 1988 aims to achieve 33% forest and tree cover over the country’s geographical area.
  • Main objectives:
    • Monitor forest cover and changes at the National, State, and District levels.
    • Generate information on forest cover in different density classes and changes.
    • Produce forest cover and thematic maps for the entire country.
    • Provide a primary base layer for assessing parameters like growing stock, forest carbon, etc.
    • Offer information for international reporting.
  • Forest cover: Encompasses all lands with trees over one hectare, featuring a tree canopy density exceeding 10%, irrespective of ownership, legal status, or tree species composition.
  • Very Dense Forest: Lands with a tree canopy density of 70% and above, constituting 3.04% of the forest cover.
  • Moderately Dense Forest: Lands with a tree canopy density of 40% and more but less than 70%, making up 9.33% of the forest cover.
  • Open Forest: Lands with a tree canopy density of 10% and more but less than 40%, covering 9.34% of the forest.
  • Scrub Forest: Areas with a canopy density less than 10%, accounting for 1.42% of the geographical area.
  • Non-forest: Lands not in the above classes, including water, covering 76.87% of the geographical area.
  • The largest forest cover in India is in: Madhya Pradesh > Arunachal Pradesh > Chhattisgarh > Odisha > Maharashtra.
  • States from the Northeastern region have the highest percentage of forest cover relative to their total geographical area.
    • Mizoram (84.53%) > Arunachal Pradesh (79.33%) > Meghalaya (76.00%) > Manipur (74.34%) > Nagaland (73.90%).
  • A net increase of 1,540 sq km in Forest Cover at the national level.
  • States showing significant gain in forest cover: Andhra Pradesh > Telangana > Odisha > Karnataka > Jharkhand.
  • States showing loss in forest cover: Arunachal Pradesh > Manipur > Nagaland > Mizoram > Meghalaya.
  • A decrease of 902 sq km of Forest Cover reported in the hill districts of the country.
  • An overall decrease in Forest Cover in tribal districts by 55 sq km. However, Forest Cover inside Recorded Forest Areas/Green wash areas in tribal districts shows a decrease of 655 sq km.
  • 218 tribal districts identified in 27 States/UTs under the Integrated Tribal Development Programme.
  • An overall decrease of 1,020 sq km of Forest Cover in the Northeastern States.
  • Forest Cover of Seven Major Cities studied. Total Forest Cover in these cities is 509.72 sq km, constituting 10.21% of the total geographical area.
  • An increase of 68 sq km of Forest Cover in the last ten years.
  • Maximum gain in Forest Cover seen in Hyderabad, followed by Delhi, while Ahmedabad and Bengaluru have experienced a loss in Forest Cover.

Chapter 3- Mangrove Cover

  • Mangroves: A diverse group of salt-tolerant plant communities in tropical and subtropical intertidal regions.
  • Adaptations: Mangrove species show various adaptations in morphology, anatomy, and physiology to survive waterlogged soils, high salinity, and cyclonic storms.
  • Importance:
    • Mangroves serve as refuges for coastal biodiversity.
    • They act as bio-shields against extreme climatic events.
  • Protective Role:
    • Complex root systems efficiently dissipate sea wave energy.
    • Mangroves protect coastal areas from tsunamis, storm surges, and soil erosion.
  • Additional Functions:
    • Slow water flows and enhance sediment deposition.
    • Accrete land by trapping fine sediments and heavy metal contaminants.
    • Prevent coastal erosion and sea water pollution.
    • Serve as breeding grounds for fish species and other marine fauna.
    • Provide livelihood for coastal communities through honey, tannins, wax, and fishing.
  • Carbon Sinks: Mangroves are crucial for sequestering carbon.
  • Reasons for Damage:
    • Biotic pressure and natural calamities negatively impact Mangrove ecosystems.
    • Growing land reclamation for agriculture and industrialization along coastlines.
    • Discharge of untreated domestic sewage and industrial effluents.
    • Upstream activities like river training and natural erosion affect Mangroves’ health, emphasizing the importance of ecological flow for flushing silt and wastes.
  • Conservation of Mangroves: Classified as Type Group-4 Littoral & Swamp Forests according to Champion & Seth (1968).
  • Important Mangrove Species in India:
    • Avicennia officinalis, Rhizophora mucronata, Sonneratia alba, Avicennia alba, Bruguiera cylindrica, Heritiera littoralis, Phoenix paludosa, Morinda citrifolia & Ceriops tagal.
  • Sundarbans: World’s largest Mangrove Forest located in the northern Bay of Bengal, covering approximately 10,000 sq km in Bangladesh and India.
    • The first Mangrove forest in the world brought under scientific management in 1892.
  • National Mangroves Committee: Established by the Government of India in 1976 to advise on conservation and development of Mangroves.
  • Global Mangrove Cover (FRA 2020):
    • 113 countries have Mangrove forests, totaling 14.79 million hectares worldwide.
    • Largest areas in Asia > Africa > North and Central America > South America.
    • Oceania reports the smallest Mangrove area.
    • Over 40% of global Mangroves in Indonesia (19%), Brazil (9%), Nigeria (7%), and Mexico (6%).
  • Mangrove Cover in India:
    • 4,992 sq km, constituting 0.15% of the country’s total geographical area.
    • An increase of 17 sq km compared to the 2019 assessment.
  • States with Significant Gain: Odisha and Maharashtra.

Chapter 4- Assessment of Forest Cover in Tiger Reserves and Lion Conservation Area of India

  • The Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris):
    • Considered an umbrella species protecting many others at the ecosystem and landscape level.
    • Classified as an “Endangered species” on the IUCN Red List.
  • The Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica):
    • Originally widespread in India, now limited to the Gir area of Gujarat.
    • Listed as an “Endangered species” on the IUCN Red List due to a small population and limited habitat.
  • India’s Contribution:
    • Tigers in India represent 70% of the world’s total Tiger population (3,890), ranking after Russia and Indonesia.
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF):
    • India is part of the TX2 agreement, a global commitment to double the world’s wild Tigers by 2022 in thirteen Tiger range countries.
    • Countries include India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Russia, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
  • Tiger Task Force:
    • Established by the Indian Board for Wildlife (IBWL) to suggest conservation measures for Tiger preservation.
    • Led to the launch of ‘Project Tiger’ on April 1, 1973, aimed at restoring Tiger habitats and ensuring a viable Tiger population.
  • Tiger Reserves:
    • The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (2006 amendment) allows the declaration of an area as a Tiger Reserve for in-situ conservation of Tigers.
    • A Tiger reserve is a designated area exclusively reserved for Tiger conservation, with the peripheral zone acting as a buffer—a multiple-use area where conservation is prioritized over other land uses.
    • The buffer zone aims to maintain a balance between wildlife and human activities, considering the livelihood, developmental, social, and cultural rights of the local people.
  • Top Five Tiger Reserves (based on forest cover percentage):
    • Pakke in Arunachal Pradesh (96.83%)
    • Achanakmar in Madhya Pradesh (95.63%)
    • Simlipal in Odisha (94.17%)
    • Kali in Karnataka (92.45%)
    • Dampa in Mizoram (92.05%)
  • Decadal Change in Forest Cover (IFSR 2011- IFSR 2021):
    • Between 2011 and 2021, a decrease of 22.62 sq km (0.04%) in forest cover occurred.
  • Tiger Reserves:
    • Significant gains in forest cover observed in:
      • Buxa
      • Anamalai
      • Indravati
    • Maximum losses in forest cover reported from:
      • Kawal
      • Bhadra
      • Sundarbans
  • Wetlands:
    • 5,821 wetlands cover 7.20% of the total area of Tiger reserves.
    • Sundarban Tiger Reserve has the largest wetland area, constituting 96.76% of its total area.
    • Kanha Tiger Reserve has the highest number of wetlands, boasting 461 wetlands.

Chapter 5- Forest Fire & Monitoring

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has introduced the National Action Plan on Forest Fires, 2018 to overhaul forest fire management in the country.
  • Main Objectives:
    • Informing
    • Enabling
    • Empowering forest fringe communities, incentivizing collaboration with State Forest Departments (SFDs).
  • The plan aims to substantially reduce vulnerabilities of diverse forest ecosystems in the Indian subcontinent against fire hazards.
  • It also focuses on enhancing capabilities of forest personnel and institutions in firefighting, utilizing technology, and expediting recovery after a fire event.
  • According to a long-term trend analysis by FSI, nearly 10.66% of India’s Forest Cover is in an extremely to very highly fire-prone zone.
  • North-Eastern Region states exhibit the highest tendency for forest fires, falling under the extremely to very highly forest fire zone.
  • States like Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya, and Manipur in the North-Eastern Part of India show the highest forest fire probability in terms of event occurrence frequency.
  • Parts of Western Maharashtra, Southern Chhattisgarh, Central Odisha, and some areas in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka display patches of extremely and very highly fire-prone zones.

Chapter 6- Tree Cover

  • The total tree cover of the country is estimated to be 95,748 sq km.
  • There is an increase of 721 sq km in tree cover compared to the 2019 assessment.
  • State-wise estimates of Tree Cover:
    • Maximum Tree Cover: Maharashtra > Rajasthan > Madhya Pradesh > Karnataka > Uttar Pradesh.
    • Maximum Tree Cover as a percentage of geographical area: Chandigarh > Delhi > Kerala > Goa.
  • State-wise estimates of Tree Outside Forest (TOF):
    • Maximum extent of TOF: Maharashtra > Odisha > Karnataka.
    • Maximum extent of TOF as a percentage of geographical area: Lakshadweep > Kerala > Goa.
  • Over the last 5 biennial assessments, the tree cover in the country has exhibited an increasing trend.
  • The tree cover has risen from 90,844 sq km in the 2011 assessment to 95,748 sq km in the 2021 assessment, indicating a decadal increase of 4,904 sq km.

Chapter 7- Growing Stock

  • The National Forest Inventory (NFI):
    • A significant forest resource assessment conducted by FSI.
    • Aims to assess the growing stock of trees, tree numbers, bamboo, soil carbon, NTFP (Non-Timber Forest Products), invasive species, and other parameters reflecting forest growth and health.
    • Comprises three components: Forest Inventory, TOF (Rural) Inventory, and TOF (Urban) Inventory.
  • Over the last 3 biennial assessments, the growing stock both within and outside forests has demonstrated a consistent upward trend.
  • The total growing stock has increased by 6.92% in the 2021 assessment.
  • Growing stock inside forests has experienced a 4.60% rise in the current assessment.
  • In TOF, the growing stock has increased by 13.09%.

Chapter 8- Bamboo Resources of the Country

  • In India, bamboo is naturally found throughout the country, excluding the Kashmir region. The country hosts approximately 125 indigenous and 11 exotic species of bamboo across 23 genera.
  • Bamboo plays a significant role in the social, economic, and ecological development of any region.
  • The Bamboo Bearing Area of the Country is 15.00 million hectares.
  • Compared to the ISFR 2019, the total bamboo bearing area has decreased by 1.06 million hectares.
  • States with Maximum Bamboo Bearing Area: Mizoram > Arunachal Pradesh.
  • States with Minimum Bamboo Bearing Area: Madhya Pradesh > Maharashtra.
  • Maximum Occurrence of Pure Bamboo: Madhya Pradesh > Maharashtra > Chhattisgarh.
  • Top 10 states in terms of bamboo bearing area (%):

Chapter 9- Carbon Stock in India’s Forest

  • The carbon stock for 2021 is estimated at 7,204.0 million tonnes.
  • There is an increase of 79.4 million tonnes compared to the estimates of the 2019 report.
  • State-wise Maximum carbon stock: Arunachal Pradesh > Madhya Pradesh > Chhattisgarh > Maharashtra.
  • State-wise Maximum per hectare carbon stock: Jammu & Kashmir > Himachal Pradesh > Sikkim > Andaman & Nicobar Island.
  • Soil organic carbon constitutes the largest pool of forest carbon, followed by Above Ground Biomass (AGB), Below Ground Biomass (BGB), Litter, and dead wood.
  • Compared to the 2019 assessment, the most significant changes have been observed in AGB and dead wood.

Chapter 10- Above Biomass Estimation using SAR Data

  • Biomass: Forests provide crucial ecosystem services, with a key role in absorbing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Biomass refers to the mass of living organisms within a tree.
  • Above Ground Biomass (AGB): Encompasses the portion of vegetation situated above the ground, including stumps, trees, deadwood, litter, and foliage.
  • Below Ground Biomass (BGB): Encompasses the parts of the tree, specifically roots, situated beneath the ground.
  • Forest biomass constitutes approximately 80% of the total biomass on Earth (Reichstein & Carvalhais, 2019).
  • In 2018 FSI, in collaboration with Space Application Centre (SAC), ISRO, Ahmedabad, launched a special study to estimate Above Ground Biomass (AGB) at the pan-India level using L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data.

Chapter-11 Mapping of Climate Change Hotspots in Indian Forests

  • A climate hotspot refers to an area prone to adverse climatic change.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports continuously emphasize the impacts of climate change.
  • The BITS Pilani Study:
    • FSI, aligned with its mandate for monitoring and assessing forests, collaborated with BITS Pilani (Goa Campus) to map climate hotspots in the country’s forest areas.
    • Aim of the Study: Based on computer model projections of temperature and rainfall for 2030, 2050, and 2085.
    • The study aims to enhance understanding of climate change hotspots in Indian forests for planning and strategizing preventive and adaptive measures.
    • Outcomes:
      • Highest Temperature Increase: Ladakh, Jammu-Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand.
      • Least Temperature Rise: Andaman & Nicobar Islands, West Bengal, Goa, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.
      • Highest Increase in Rainfall: The North-Eastern States and Upper Malabar Coast of India.
      • Least Increase/Decline in Rainfall: Parts of North-Eastern States like Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim; North-Western parts of the country, namely Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh.

Chapter 12 – New Initiatives

  • FSI is committed to keeping pace with technological advancements to fulfill the information needs of the forestry sector, leading to more accurate findings. Key initiatives include:
  1. Trees Outside Forest Resources in India:
    • Developed a new methodology to estimate TOF resources and the extent of TOF area in the country.
    • Assessed the potential annual yield from timber from TOF.
  2. India’s Nationally Determined Contribution:
    • Focused on creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.
    • Explored possibilities, scale, and costs for formulating a strategic approach.
  3. Variability in Forests and Optimum Sample Size Study:
    • Provided an optimum sample size for different districts in the country for estimating growing stock.
    • Valuable for State Forest Departments, particularly in the preparation of Working Plans.
  4. Grid-Based Algorithm for Vegetation Change Detection:
    • Introduced a new grid-based algorithm for pinpointing changes in forest vegetation over large landscapes.
    • Utilized the Grid Vegetation Change Index (GVCI) to detect changes rapidly between two time periods.
  5. Rapid Assessment of Fire-Affected Forest Areas:
    • Since 2004, monitored forest fires using remote sensing, issuing alerts to State Forest Departments.
    • Developed a cost-effective and time-efficient methodology for the rapid assessment of fire-affected forest areas based on MODIS-detections.
    • Aids in estimating fire-affected areas for eco-restoration planning by the states.


Candidates gearing up for the IAS exam are required to possess a comprehensive understanding of the country’s natural resources, particularly its forests, and the associated challenges in management and conservation. The India State of Forest Report 2021 offers abundant information on current forest cover, historical changes, and the status of protected areas. This subject is explicitly outlined in the UPSC GS3 Syllabus and should be thoroughly addressed by aspirants. It is advisable for candidates to delve into the top UPSC books and supplementary notes to ensure thorough preparation for this critical topic.

FAQs on Indian State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021

Q. What is India State of Forest Report?

Answer – The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is a comprehensive assessment published at regular intervals, providing detailed information on the country’s forest cover, tree resources, biodiversity, and related aspects.

Q. What is the latest India State of Forest Report?

Answer – The latest India State of Forest Report is the one for the year 2021.

Q. What are the main findings of the India State of Forest Report 2021?

Answer – The main findings include details on forest and tree cover, changes in forest area, growing stock estimates, status of protected areas, and assessments related to carbon stock, among other crucial aspects.

Q. Who releases the India State of Forest Report?

Answer – The India State of Forest Report is released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), an organization under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Q. Which state has the highest forest area in India in 2021 as per ISFR 2021?

Answer – The state with the highest forest area in India in 2021, as per ISFR 2021, can be identified based on the specific data provided in the report.

Q. Which state has the lowest forest cover in India in 2021 as per ISFR 2021?

Answer – The state with the lowest forest cover in India in 2021, as per ISFR 2021, can be determined by referring to the specific data presented in the report.

Q. What is the increase in forest and tree cover in India as per ISFR 2021 compared to 2019?

Answer – The ISFR 2021 provides information on the increase in forest and tree cover compared to the 2019 assessment.

Q. What is the percentage of forest in India in 2021 as per ISFR 2021?

Answer – The ISFR 2021 discloses the percentage of forest cover in India for the specific year.

Q. Which states and union territories have the highest forest cover?

Answer – The ISFR 2021 report provides data on states and union territories with the highest forest cover in the country.

Q. How does the India State of Forest Report 2021 impact policy and decision-making?

Answer – The ISFR 2021 serves as a crucial reference for policymakers and decision-makers, providing insights into the state of forests and facilitating informed decisions on conservation and sustainable forest management.

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