Flora is the plant life occurring in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring or indigenous—native plant life.
The corresponding term for animal life is fauna. Flora, fauna and other forms of life such as fungi are collectively referred to as biota. Sometimes bacteria and fungi are also referred to as flora, as in the terms gut flora or skin flora.
As for India the country may be divided into the following five ecological sub-regions for studying its flora and fauna:
1.The Himalayan Mountain System:
The unique floral wealth of the Himalayas is undergoing structural and compositional changes due to climate change. The increase in temperature is shifting various species to higher elevations. The oak forest is being invaded by pine forests in the Garhwal Himalayan region. There are reports of early flowering and fruiting in some tree species, especially rhododendron, apple and box myrtle. The highest known tree species in the Himalayas is Juniperus tibetica located at 4,900 metres (16,080 ft) in Southeastern Tibet.
This region is divided into the following regions with their characteristic wildlife:
(a) The Himalaya Foothills:
Big mammals of north India like elephant, sambar, swamp deer, cheetal, hog deer, great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, wild buffalo, golden langur, etc.
(b) Western Himalayas (high altitude region):
Wild ass, wild goats (thar, markhor, ibex) and sheep (Nayan, Marcopolo’s sheep, bharal or blue sheep); antelopes (chiru and Tibetan gazelle), deers (hangul or Kashmir stag and slou or Sikkim stag, musk deer); smaller mammals like marmots and pikas, etc.
(c) Eastern Himalayas:
Red panda, hog badgers, crestless porcupines, goat antelopes (scrow, goral, takins).
2.Peninsular Indian Sub-region:
This is a true home of Indian wildlife with two distinct zones
(a) peninsular India and its extension into the drainage basin of the Ganges river system, and
(b) desert region of Rajasthan.
(a) Peninsular India:
It is the home of wildlife thriving in tropical moist deciduous to tropical dry deciduous vegetation. Important fauna include elephant; wild boar; deers (cheetal or axis deer, hog deer, swamp deer or barasinga, sambhar); antelopes (four-horned antelope, nilgai, blackbuck, etc.); wild dog; and gaur (a bull).
(b) Indian Desert:
Animals are mostly burrowing ones. Among mammals rodents are the largest group. The Indian desert gerbils are mouselike rodents. Other animals are wild ass, blackbuck, desert cat, caracal, etc. Among birds the most famous is Great Indian bustard.
3.Tropical Evergreen Forest Region or Indo-Malayan Sub-region:
The region with heavy rainfall is very rich in animals. There are wild elephants, gore and other larger animals. Most species are tree dwellers. The most prominent ones are hoolock gibbons (only ape found in India), golden langur, capped langur or leaf monkey, etc.
4.Andaman and Nicobar Islands:
The Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to some of the richest varieties of flora and fauna, with 86% of the islands covered in primary tropical rain-forests. Of the 2000 plus species of plants that grow on the islands, at least 1,300 are exclusive and not found in mainland India.
its marine life is phenomenal.The Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park just outside of Port Blair offers ecotourism experiences in Jolly Buoy island as well as Red Skin (the alternative when Jolly Buoy is closed). Owing to its endless coast, the islands also offer an interesting variety of seashells and have become part of the island’s lifeline. These colourful and natural sea shells (once even served as money) are now used as ornaments, souveniers, in local cottage industries and even as musical instruments.
These islands are home to many species of mammals, reptiles and marine aniinals. Among mammals, bats and rats are predominant. They constitute about 75 per cent of the total mammals found on islands. Pigs, crab-eating macaque, palm civet and deers are other important land animals of the islands. Dugong, false killer whale and dolphin are prominent marine mammals. The islands house rare birds such as Narcondum hornbill, Nicobar pigeon and megapode.
5.Mangrove Swamps of Sunderbans:
A total 245 genera and 334 plant species were recorded by David Prain in 1903.While most of the mangroves in other parts of the world are characterised by members of the Rhizophoraceae, Avicenneaceae or Combretaceae, the mangroves of Bangladesh are dominated by the Malvaceae and Euphorbiaceae.
The Sundarbans flora is characterised by the abundance of sundari (Heritiera fomes), gewa (Excoecaria agallocha), goran (Ceriops decandra) and keora (Sonneratia apetala) all of which occur prominently throughout the area. The characteristic tree of the forest is the sundari (Heritiera littoralis), from which the name of the forest had probably been derived. It yields a hard wood, used for building houses and making boats, furniture and other things. New forest accretions is often conspicuously dominated by keora (Sonneratia apetala) and tidal forests. It is an indicator species for newly accreted mudbanks and is an important species for wildlife, especially spotted deer (Axis axis). There is abundance of dhundul or passur (Xylocarpus granatum) and kankra (Bruguiera gymnorhiza) though distribution is discontinuous. Among palms, Poresia coaractata, Myriostachya wightiana and golpata (Nypa fruticans), and among grasses spear grass (Imperata cylindrica) and khagra (Phragmites karka) are well distributed.
The varieties of the forests that exist in Sundarbans include mangrove scrub, littoral forest, saltwater mixed forest, brackish water mixed forest and swamp forest. Besides the forest, there are extensive areas of brackish water and freshwatermarshes, intertidal mudflats, sandflats, sand dunes with typical dune vegetation, open grassland on sandy soils and raised areas supporting a variety of terrestrial shrubs and trees. Since Prain’s report there have been considerable changes in the status of various mangrove species and taxonomic revision of the man-grove flora. However, very little exploration of the botanical nature of the Sundarbans has been made to keep up with these changes. Differences in vegetation have been explained in terms of freshwater and low salinity influences in the Northeast and variations in drainage and siltation. The Sundarbans has been classified as a moist tropical forest demonstrating a whole mosaic of seres, comprising primary colonisation on new accretions to more mature beach forests. Historically vegetation types have been recognised in broad correlation with varying degrees of water salinity, freshwater flushing and physiography.
Fish, small crabs, and the Dorippe (having an unusual association with sea anemone), weaver ants, spotted deer, pigs, lizards, etc., are important animal lives. There is also the tiger of Sunderbans.
Endangered Animal Species Some of our animals have already become extinct and there are many others facing danger of extinction. All stich species have been classified into three categories: endangered, threatened and vulnerable.
Endangered species are those considered in imminent danger of extinction, while threatened species are those that are likely to become endangered—at least locally—within the foreseeable future. Vulnerable species are naturally rare or have been locally depleted by human activities to a level that puts them at risk.
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