What is the Difference Between Recorded Forest Area (RFA) and Forest Cover

What is the Difference Between Recorded Forest Area (RFA) and Forest Cover

Both Recorded Forest Area (RFA) and Forest Cover describe the extent of forest but have different meanings.

Recorded Forest Area (RFA)

The ‘Recorded Forest Area‘ or ‘Forest Area‘ refers to all the geographical areas recorded as ‘Forests’ in government records irrespective of the actual trees growing on such lands.

RFA usually includes the following forest areas notified under Indian Forest Act, 1927 or respective State Forest Acts:

  • Reserved Forests (RF)
  • Protected Forests (PF)
  • Unclassed Forests.

Additionally, RFA may also include all such areas, which have been recorded as ‘Forest’ in the revenue records or have been constituted so under any State Acts or local laws.

Forest Cover

The ‘Forest Cover‘ refers to all tree patches that have canopy density of more than 10% and area of one hectare or more in size, irrespective of land use, legal status and ownership. It may include orchards, bamboo, and palms etc. and is assessed through remote sensing.

As per the definition of ‘Forest cover’ used in ISFR, such blank areas in RFA are excluded from the assessment of Forest cover.

Therefore, RFA may have blank areas with tree canopy density of less than 10% such as degraded lands, wetlands, rivers, creeks in mangroves, snow covered areas, glaciers and other snow covered areas, alpine pastures, cold deserts, grasslands etc.

On the other hand, there are areas outside the RFA comprising tree patches of more than one hectare in area, with canopy density of 10% and above. Such areas include plantations on the private and community lands, road, rail, and canal side plantations, rubber, tea and coffee plantations etc. and are included in assessment of Forest cover.

Thus, RFA and Forest cover overlap with each other but the two are not coterminous with each other. 

Statistics:

According to ISFR 2021:

Recorded Forest Area of India 2021

TypeRecorded Forest Area (RFA) in Sq. KmsPercentage of GA
Reserved Forest4,42,27613.45%
Protected Forest2,12,2296.4%
Unclassed Forest1,20,7533.67%
Total RFA7,75,28823.58%
Total Geographical Area (GA)32,87,469100%

Forest and Tree cover of India in 2021

ClassForest Cover
Area (sq km)
Percentage of Geographical Area
Very Dense Forest99,7793.04 %
Moderately Dense Forest3,06,8909.33 %
Open Forest3,07,1209.34 %
Total Forest Cover*7,13,78921.71 %
Tree Cover95,7482.91 %
Total Forest and Tree Cover8,09,53724.62 %
Scrub46,5391.42 %
Non Forest#25,27,14176.87 %
Total Geographical Area32,87,469100%
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