New vegetation type map of India prepared using satellite remotesensing: Comparison with global vegetation maps and utilities
A seamless vegetation type map of India (scale 1: 50,000) prepared using medium-resolution IRS LISS-IIIimages is presented. The map was created using an on-screen visual interpretation technique and has anaccuracy of 90%, as assessed using 15,565 ground control points. India has hitherto been using potentialvegetation/forest type map prepared by Champion and Seth in 1968. We characterized and mappedfurther the vegetation type distribution in the country in terms of occurrence and distribution, areaoccupancy, percentage of protected area (PA) covered by each vegetation type, range of elevation, meanannual temperature and precipitation over the past 100 years. A remote sensing-amenable hierarchicalclassification scheme that accommodates natural and semi-natural systems was conceptualized, and thenatural vegetation was classified into forests, scrub/shrub lands and grasslands on the basis of extent ofvegetation cover. We discuss the distribution and potential utility of the vegetation type map in a broadrange of ecological, climatic and conservation applications from global, national and local perspectives.We used 15,565 ground control points to assess the accuracy of products available globally (i.e., GlobCover,Holdridges life zone map and potential natural vegetation (PNV) maps). Hence we recommend that themap prepared herein be used widely. This vegetation type map is the most comprehensive one developedfor India so far. It was prepared using 23.5 m seasonal satellite remote sensing data, field samples andinformation relating to the biogeography, climate and soil. The digital map is now available through aweb portal (http://bis.iirs.gov.in).