Southern Asia: Eastern India

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The Northern Dry Deciduous Forests [IM0208] ecoregion is neither exceptionally species-rich nor high in numbers of endemic species. But it does harbor several large vertebrates, including Asia's largest and most charismatic carnivore, the tiger (Panthera tigris). This ecoregion also represents the northernmost extent of dry deciduous forests in India.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    22,500 square miles
  • Status
  • Habitats

Location and General Description
The ecoregion extends across the Indian states of Bihar, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh. It represents a north-south-directed island of dry deciduous forests in the rainshadow of the Eastern Ghats Mountain Range and is completely surrounded by the Eastern Highlands Moist Deciduous Forests [IM0111]. As with the rest of the Deccan Plateau, the ecoregion's geological history dates back to the Cretaceous, when it was part of southern Gondwanaland.

The forest type in the ecoregion corresponds to the Shorea-Buchanania-Cleistanthus and Shorea-Cleistanthus-Croton vegetation mapped by Gaussen et al. (1973). Most of these forests are open scrub influenced by human activities. The original sal (Shorea robusta)-dominated, multistoried vegetation has been replaced by teak (Tectona grandis), which favors drier conditions. In many areas, intensive livestock grazing, fire, and nontimber forest product harvest have converted the habitat to scrub and savanna woodland.

The vegetation is made up of associations of Anogeissus latifolia, Dalbergia latifolia, Pterocarpus marsupium, Stereospermum suaveolens, Spondias pinnata, Cleistanthus collinus, Acacia lenticularis, Flacourtia indica, Boswellia serrata, Butea monosperma, Sterculia urens, Cochlospermum religiosum, and Euphorbia nivulia (Puri et al. 1989; WWF and IUCN 1995). Gregarious patches of Dendrocalamus strictus tend to occur in moister areas. Cleistanthus collinus can release substances toxic to other species; therefore, monospecific stands can occur in places.

Biodiversity Features
Like many of the Deccan Plateau dry forest ecoregions, this region does not harbor large numbers of endemic species, nor is it exceptionally rich in biodiversity. The known mammal fauna consists of sixty-eight species. There are no ecoregional endemic species, but the threatened species include the tiger, wild dog (Cuon alpinus), sloth bear (Ursus ursinus), and chousingha (Tetracerus quadricornis) (IUCN 2000).

The 261 bird species in the ecoregion do not include endemic species. The Indian grey hornbill (Ocyceros birostris) and Oriental pied-hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) need tall, mature trees for nesting and can be used as focal species for conservation management.

Current Status
More than three-fourths of the ecoregion's natural habitat has been cleared or degraded. But a few mid-sized (i.e., more than 2,000 km2) blocks of intact habitat still remain. The four protected areas in the ecoregion (table 1) amount to just over 1,400 km2, representing about 2.5 percent of the ecoregion area. But of these, only one exceeds 500 km2.

Table 1. WCMC (1997) Protected Areas That Overlap with the Ecoregion.

  Protected Area Area (km2) IUCN Category
Sunabeda 600 IV
Kanger Ghati 230 II
Debrigarh 340 IV
Gomarda 290 IV
Total 1,460  

Ecoregion numbers of protected areas that overlap with additional ecoregions are listed in brackets.

Types and Severity of Threats
Land clearing and degradation remain the primary threat to the remaining habitat. Fires are regularly set to encourage grazing lands for livestock. Extensive poaching and collection of nontimber forest products by the tribal communities are also a serious concern. But degradation threats from industry and timer companies also are high.

The large tribal populations in these areas are also shifting from subsistence to more materially demanding lifestyles. The growing populations and economic aspirations and shrinking resources result in conflicts with conservation interests and authorities. Until these problems are addressed effectively, the conflicts will increase.

The Naxalite conflicts in Andhra Pradesh and at the junction of Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh prevent effective government management and protection of conservation areas (especially protected areas and reserve forests). The conflicts are also funded by poaching of rhinoceroses, tigers, and elephants.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
In a previous analysis of conservation units, Rodgers and Panwar (1988) divided the Deccan Peninsula into five biotic provinces. The Eastern Highlands (6C) and Chhota-Nagpur (6D) biotic provinces of Rodgers and Panwar contain this large patch of dry deciduous forests, which is surrounded by an extensive area of moist deciduous forests (MacKinnon 1997). In keeping with our definition of an ecoregion (i.e., an ecosystem of regional extent) and following our rules for ecoregion delineation (represent distinct vegetation types of regional extent in separate ecoregions), we extracted the dry deciduous forests (as mapped by MacKinnon 1997) from the surrounding moist deciduous forests and represented them with the Northern Dry Deciduous Forests [IM0208].

References for this ecoregion are currently consolidated in one document for the entire Indo-Pacific realm.
Indo-Pacific Reference List

Prepared by: Gopal S. Rawat, Ajay Desai, Hema Somanathan, and Eric D. Wikramanayake
Reviewed by: