Montane forests grow in mountainous regions. As the temperature decreases with an increase in height, there is a change in the cover of the natural vegetation at altitude. Montane forests can be divided into two types—Northern Montane forests and Southern Montane forests.
Northern Montane Forests
The Northern Montane forests include the Himalayan moist temperate forests, Himalayan dry temperate forests, and Alpine forests.
Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests
Climatic Conditions: They are found in regions that receive rainfall between 100 cm and 300 cm. The temperature ranges between 12°C and 13°C.
Distribution: These are found in the Himalayan zone from Kashmir to Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- These forests have mixed species of broad-leafed evergreen trees and conifers.
- These forests also contain scrubs, creepers and ferns.
Important Species of Trees: Some important species of trees are oak, fir, spruce, deodar, cedar, maple, yew, and birch. The timber of the forests is used for commercial purposes.
Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests
- Climatic Conditions: These forests occur in areas receiving less than 100 cm of rainfall and are found at a height above 1500 m.
- Distribution: They are mainly found in Ladakh, Chamba, Sikkim, and in the inner Garhwal regions.
- Important Species of trees are ash, junipers, maple, and oak. The timber obtained from these forests is used for construction work and for making light furniture.
Climatic Conditions: These forests are found at an altitude of 2800–4000 m.
Distribution: These forests are found in high altitudes of the Himalayas running from the northwest to the northeast frontiers.
- Deciduous forests are found at the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Between the heights of 1000 to 2000 m, wet temperate types of forests are found. Trees are broadleaf such as oak and chestnut.
- Temperate forests are found at 1500– 3000 m. Coniferous trees predominate in this region. Pine, cedar, fir, deodar, and spruce are some important species of trees. These forests are found on the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountains.
- At higher altitudes, temperate grasslands are found.
- Above 3600 m, Alpine vegetation can be found. Silver fir, pines, junipers, and birches are some important species of trees. However, at still higher latitudes, their growth is stunted.
- At higher altitudes, mosses and lichens are found which form part of the Tundra vegetation.
Important species of trees are silver juniper, pine, birch, chestnut, oak, and fir. The trees yield valuable timber which is used for making furniture, wood pulp, and plywood.
Southern Montane Forests
They are found in regions receiving annual rainfall of more than 150 cm. The temperature of the region ranges between 18°C and 24°C. These forests are found in the Vindhyas, Nilgiris, and the Western Ghats.
Characteristic Features of Southern Montane Forests
- These forests have both tropical and temperate vegetation.
- It is because the hilly regions located closer to the tropics have temperate vegetation, while lower regions of the Western Ghats have sub tropical forests. Important species of trees are laurel, wattle, plum, and magnolia.
Uses of Some Important Species of Mountain Trees
- Deodar: It is used for construction work.
- Chir: The wood is reddish brown and is used for making tea chests, furniture and match boxes.
- Blue Pine: It is used for making doors, windows and furniture.
- Spruce: Its soft wood is used for construction work and for making cabinets, match boxes and furniture.
- Walnut: Its wood is used for making musical instruments and cabinets. It is mostly used in Kashmir and North India for carving. It is also used for gun stocks.
- Birch: It is used for making furniture, plywood and radio cabinets.
- Cypress: It has durable wood which is used for making furniture.
- Jamun: It is used for making furniture and cabinets, and in construction.
Also, Read What is Social Forestry?