Soil

Various types of soils are found in the state. These are black soils, laterite and lateritic soils, coastal alluvial soils, saline -alkali soils, mixed red and black soil, fed loam and red and yellow soils.

i) Black soils

These soils occur extensively in the state. They are found in semi-arid, dry sub-humid and moist sub humid regions at elevation of 300 to 900 meter above mean sea level with hot summer and mild winter. The dark color is due to the formation of a clay-organic matter complex. Soil characteristics with a favorable surface structure, higher water retention and high cation exchange capacity make these soils potentially productive. The soils show a great variability in their depth as well as characteristics and are generally grouped as shallow, medium and deep black soils.

a. Shallow black soils

Its depth ranges from 0.0 to 22.5 cm of soil. They are mixed with disintegrated murum (coarse partly disintegrated – parent material) and form 20-22 per cent of the black soils. These soils have coarse texture and are characterized by low fertility. These are found on piedmont (a plateau between the coastal plain and the foot of a mountain range).

b. Medium black soils

The soil depth is about 22.5 to 90 cm. Medium black soils occupy the largest area of the State (about 65 percent). These are mostly found to occur on piedmont plain. These soils are base saturated with calcium as the predominant exchangeable cation. They have high lime reserve (1 to 5 per cent) and alkaline reaction (pH 7.0 to 9.0).

c. Deep black soils

These soils are found in vast stretches in river valleys of Godavari, Krishna, Bhima and the Purna and also in the piedmont plains. These soils are more fertile than medium black soils. The structure is granular in surface layer and becomes cloddy with angular shining wedge shaped surface at a lower depth. The clay content ranges from 40 to 60 per cent but may be as high as 70 percent.

ii) Laterite and lateritic soils

These soils are practically devoid of calcium carbonate, acidic in reaction (pH 5.0 to 6.5) and sandy clay loam to clayey in texture.

iii) Coastal alluvial soils

These soils are derived from trap and are clay loam in texture, greyish black in color and alkaline in reaction (pH 7.5 to 8.0). The lime content ranges around 5.0 per cent.

iv) Saline – alkali soils

These soils are clay loam to clayey in texture and grey to black in color. Soils contain 0.5 to 5.0 percent lime and pH ranges from 8.5 to 9.5.

v) Mixed red and black soils, red loam and red and yellow soils

Nearly 70 percent of the area in Bhandara district is under these soils. Their physico-chemical properties are more or less similar to medium deep black soils. In addition, very shallow and coarse textured gravely red soils occur in this area. Such soils contain a very high percentage of free lime, stones and gravel. The color of these soils is generally red or yellowish red due to the presence of iron oxides.

Vegetation Patterns

N. Maharashtra: This is the great teak belt of Maharashtra. It is the home of Maharashtra consists of Melghat, Tadoba Andhari, Pench, Nagzira & Navegaon Wildlife Sancturies together with the Tiger Reserves form a belt of forests that broader the Satpuda to the North. The Western Ghats have semi evergreen forests & patches of evergreen forests. In drier slopes there are moist deciduous mixed forest and dry deciduous forests mainly of teak plantation. Much of the forest is degraded and afforestation over the years has concentrated on fast growing exotics such as Eucalyptus, Subhabhul and Acacia auriculiformis.

Important patches of ground flora with many endemic and endangered species occur in the monsoon on the plateau tops in the Sahyadris. The coastal belt apart from the patches of forest as seen in Phansad WLS have coastal and estuarine mangroves which still have good patches. However the loss of mangrove vegetation in recent years has been significant. The Deccan Plateau semiarid grassland ecosystem which once constituted extensive grazing lands of local agriculturists and pastoralists have been converted in to sugarcane and horticulture. This makes this ecosystem and its species highly vulnerable.

The speed of urbanization and industrialization across Maharashtra over the last two decade has led to islands of residual vegetation in isolated patches mainly in Protected Areas and in some of the better managed Reserved Forests. Very low efforts have been made to manage vegetation to enhance its natural biodiversity values. This needs a complete change in the management of vegetation not only in cultivars & agriculture but in the greenery of urban areas.

Fauna

Over the last century faunal abundance has depleted enormously. The vast heard of black buck of the Deccan are pocketed into small scattered areas. The Great Indian Buster is almost gone. The tiger population outside PAs is extremely small. Fresh water fish are depleted in Western Ghats streams. Rivers are extensively polluted by urban waste and industrial chemicals. The last barteous are in the four WLS & five National Parks of the State.