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Forest Management in the Himalayas: Review of Literature

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Review of Literature

The Himalayas is a massive mountain range extending over 2500 km in length, between 80 and 300 km wide, and rising from low-lying plains over 800 m above sea level. It produces a distinctive climate of its own and influences the climate of much of Asia (Zobel and Singh, 1997). Troup (1921) divided Indian Himalayas into the western and eastern regions. Singh, 2006 states that variations in topographical features create a range of climatic and habitat settings within the region. The Indian Himalayan region is also called the ‘water tower of the earth’. Roughly 10-20% of the area is covered by glaciers, while 30-40% remains under seasonal snow cover (Bahadur, 2004). The Himalayas is a provider of a variety of natural resources to the great Gangetic plains the heartland of the country, including the life-giving water. Researchers believe that these resources have largely been endangered by human activities (Champion and Seth, 1968; Singh and Singh, 1991; Eckholm, 1975). Despite the vast water resources movements such as the retreating effects of glaciers, streams and rivers occur regularly in the region. Trucker 1983, Guha, 1989; Thadani, 1999 blame commercial forestry in the past, and the policy implications made to sustain commercial forestry might have alienated the local populace and may have resulted in intentional forest destruction. Singh and Singh, 1991 suggest that many basic resources are depleted, polluted, or mismanaged. Caldwell, 1984 points out that strategies for sustainable development are not achieved because of the lack of a politically efficient and environmentally aware constituency.

Himalaya is the product of the collusion of the northward-moving Indian subcontinent with Asia, which was once part of Laurasia (Molnar, 1986). The young and rising mountains have immature topography which is why slopes particularly in the Greater Himalayas are very vulnerable to erosion causing heavy silt load in the rivers originating from the Himalayas. For example, the silt load in Ganga in Bangladesh is reported to be 15.7 t/yr, compared to 0.8 to 5.1 t ha/yr for the rivers of the trans-Himalayan region (Holeman, 1984). Landslides and road construction for military and civil purposes have also resulted in forest destruction. With a large number of faults that cut the mountain arc into differently moving segments, and are divided into deep and active thrusts, the Himalayas is seismically and tectonically a very sensitive domain (Valdiya, 1985).

The forests of the Central Himalayas are suffering serious losses due to population growth and the expansion of agriculture (Singh et al., 1984; Rathore et al., 1997; Thadani, 1999). Samal et al., 2003 inform that the lack of modern technology to reduce mountain specificities and enhanced products to meet the burden is exhausting the resources in conjunction with the marginality of farmers, at the end advancing poverty. Vaidya, 1997 points to a reduction in dense forest cover before the ban on green felling, hastened soil erosion and siltation of water bodies, Negi and Joshi, 2002 associate it with the drying up of springs whereas replacement and loss of species, Singh et al., 1984 and Pandey et al., 1983 suggests an increased ratio of energy spent in fodder, fuel collection, and agricultural bustle that enhance labor of the women folk. Pandey and Singh (1985) studied the mechanism of recovery of disturbed ecosystems studied by in the moist temperate oak forest belt in Kumaun Himalaya. Upreti et al. (1985) studied eighteen forest stands dominated by oak (Quercus) species at elevations from 1,200 to 2,400 m in the Kumaun Himalaya for community organization, size class distribution, and regeneration status.

Robledo and Forner, 2005 explain that forests can help local communities to cope with climate change in numerous ways. There is a general consensus that future changes in climate are likely to have a profound impact on the world’s forests (Heil and Hootsmans, 1990). Climate change affects forests both directly and indirectly through disturbances that have been well-studied (Dale et al., 2000). Jonathan et al. (1991) hypothesized that an increase in disturbance frequency is also likely to increase the rate at which natural vegetation responds to future climate change. Botkin et al., 1989 reinforce that forests could be significantly altered by the first part of the next century. Pastor and Post (1988) suggested that climate changes resulting from increases in atmospheric CO2 are expected to alter forest productivity and species distributions. Ravindranath et al., 2006 indicate that even a rise in 1-2 oC, (much less than the most recent projections) will have an impact on the people who depend upon the forests for their livelihoods. In the same year( Srinivasan 2006) reported that the surface air temperature of the Himalayan region by 1 C.

Thadani 1999 informs that Quercus (oak) is a widely distributed genus in the Northern Hemisphere with 500 recorded species. Singh 2003 suggest that an integral part of poor subsistence farmer’s livelihood is the neighboring oak forest in the Himalayas, Previously, in 1998 Singh defines the chronic form of disturbance as that plants or ecosystems often do not get time to recover adequately, because human assault never stops, and can cause adverse changes in the forest, even if rates of biomass removal are within the carrying capacity of the forest.

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Forest growth is a matter of carbon sequestration and distribution. The standing biomass at any time reflects net primary production integrated over the life of the plants (Landsberg et al., 1995). The carbon balance of forests is important in the global carbon balance (Houghton 2002; Houghton 2005). Forested areas account for nearly 80-90% of plant and 30-40% of soil carbon (Schlesinger, 1991; Landsberg et al., 1995). Estimation of biomass and primary productivity is a prerequisite to understanding the ecosystem properties and functioning (Singh and Singh, 1992). Papers by Houghton 2002 and 2005 indicate that disturbing recent evidence about the unexplained carbon sinks and the uncertainty in the biomass stocks in the terrestrial ecosystem. Alfaro and MacDonald, 1988 refer to the extrapolation of values obtained from plots studied earlier can be problematic. Ingested and Agren, 1992 state that biomass is a buffer for plants over a long time scale but frequently short-term impacts are more interesting to access in ecosystems. Kagi and Schmidtke, 2005 suggest that slow-growing species might outperform fast-growing species in a long run. Marsh et al., 1996 argue that there are other options for conserving carbon, such as the reduced impact of logging. Goodale et al., 2002 suggest that Carbon stocks outside the tropics are reasonably well-known as a result of frequent inventories. Chaturvedi and Singh, 1982; Negi et al., 1983; Rawat and Singh, 1988; Rana et al., 1988 have extensively studied the biomass of different forest-forming species. Schone and Netto, 2005 advocate that c sequestration can be achieved effectively through forest management and conservation. Muladi, 1996 points out that forest fires and other forest disturbances to reduce forest degradation can be an effective strategy for carbon mitigation. Forsyth debates the importance of local knowledge and scientific techniques to test the theories of environmental degradation, and the problems of overcoming socio-political constructions of environmental problems over wide time and space scales, as identified by Regional Political Ecology.

Between 1000 and 2200 m, Q. leucotricophora is a major forest-forming species (Shahi et al, 2014). Lower elevations are dominated by Q. leucotricophora and P. roxburghii which are co-dominant species (Mehta et al, 2015). Forest biomass is a key parameter for addressing the issue of global warming due to Climate Change (Arya and Kumar, 2016). In the study by Shahi et al, (2014), the inference is that the IVI value is maximum for Q. leucotrichophora and it shares the maximum biomass and carbon stock. The lowly disturbed site has 2-390 trees/ha tree density and 0.25-51.97 total basal area which satisfies the result. It is also confirmed by Gosain et al. (2015) that Oak forest computes significantly more than Pine forests, and has substantially more carbon stock in the vegetation pool. And the soil of Oak forests has twice more C-stock than Pine forests (171.8 vs 73.7 Mg ha-1) (Gosain et al, 2015). Though the dependence of livelihoods is more on broad-leaved Oak forests, the forest biomass can be drastically changed by the level of extraction, exploitation, successional levels, and management practices (Rana et al, 1988). The assertion is given by Arya and Kumar (2016) that the undisturbed stand has a good capacity for carbon storage than the moderately or highly disturbed stand. For some, climate change education to the local people has been put forward to address the anthropogenic pressure on forest resources. Singh 2009 demonstrates the impact of disturbances of biomass stocks and carbon sequestration rates.

The broad-leaved oak forests are the basis of livelihood sustenance as the extraction of services from other species is lower than the Oak forests (Naudiyal and Schmerbeck, 2018). Studies of highly disturbed, moderately disturbed, and undisturbed sites in the Central Himalayas have shown results that can help in management strategies in times of Climate Change. The basis of regeneration status and anthropogenic pressures on forest resources are well established. In relation to this, Shahi et al. studied Q. leucotrichophora in moderately disturbed forest areas and lowly disturbed forest areas and concluded that both sites were dominated by Q. leucotrichophora. The biomass at the moderately disturbed site was higher than at the lowly disturbed site. They asserted that either the lowly disturbed area is a recent regeneration forest or it may be a highly disturbed area in the past. But the site has shown greater regeneration because of the protection and plantation strategies. It is substantiated by studies that confirm that moderate disturbances benefit Oak regeneration (Thadani and Ashton, 1995; Singh and Rawat, 2011; Shahi et al, 2014; Bargali and Pande, 2014). A reverse J-shaped curve indicates a good regeneration status at the undisturbed site while moderately disturbed sites showed fair regeneration (Bargali and Pande, 2014). This is because open patches help the regeneration better than deep shade (Singh and Rawat, 2011). Moderate disturbances through the level of early-successional grassland (Naudiyal and Schmerbeck, 2017) and resource extraction are sought as unsystematic management techniques to maintain the vegetation in its present form (Naudiyal and Schmerbeck, 2018). Though the exploitation has also accounted for compositional changes in Q. leucotricophora which is another stress area for conservation (Dhar et al, 1997). The oak leaves contain a high degree of nutrients that enrich the soil each year and help in the rapid formation of topsoil (Singh et al 2014). Its high water retention capacity maintains a high rate of water evaporation from its leaves which contributes to heavy rainfall and snow. It sequesters carbon around 4 to 5 t c ha-1yr-1 (Tewari et al., 2008; Raikwal, 2009, Singh et al 2014).

UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol include a mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation which are responsible for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions (Streck and Scholz, 2006). Skutsch et al. (2008) consider carbon as an ecosystem service. Jean et al, 2009 conducted a study on forest degradation in the Indian and Nepal Himalayas based on LSMS data in Nepal and field data in the states of Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh of India. The study focussed on the nature and magnitude of degradation and deforestation from the ground samples and its impact on the standards of the local communities and to understand the different causes of alleged local poverty, inequality, economic growth, demographic changes, property rights, and lack of collective action by local communities. Due to the increase in the population over the past 25 years, the demand for forest wood has relatively increased which has been extracted from the forest in an unregulated manner. This has caused an alarming decline in forest health in the region. The author has also suggested policy interventions which include community-based forest management methods and subsidies for LPG for local communities as a measure to ensure better forest health and a decline in forest degradation activities. Nandy et al, 2007 conducted a study in the upper catchment of Tons in Uttarakhand (India), including the Govind Wildlife Sanctuary and National park to investigate the status of forest degradation using GIS and Remote Sensing. The study reveals that more than 50% of the study area is covered with snow and in 8.1% area agriculture is practiced. Degraded forest covers the maximum area (53 km2), followed by moderately (30.4 km2) and severely degraded (26.8 km2) forests. Degraded forest covers the maximum area (53 km2), followed by moderately (30.4 km2) and severely degraded (26.8 km2) forests. It was also seen that the middle slopes showed higher degradation than the upper slopes as this land was used for activities like agriculture, horticulture, agroforestry, and grazing by the local people. It has been concluded by the study that degradation and depletion have led to severe soil erosion, biodiversity, and habitat loss of rare and endemic species. Also, this has created a loss of livelihood for the local people. Prabhakar et al used IRS-1D to see the extent of forest degradation in the Central Himalayas, covering the state of Uttarakhand (India). It was found in the study that 61% (48-73%) of the forested area has less than 40% crown cover, with the number in the bracket denoting the 90% confidence interval. The results show that the Forest Survey of India figures on forest degradation underestimate the extent of degradation on the ground. Ravindranath et al ..... comment on the Cancun agreement on the REDD mechanism that has made the path for designing and implementing REDD+ activities, in countries that are experiencing large-scale deforestation and forest degradation. Even though the total area of the forest has increased, according to the Forest Survey of India data, it is estimated 99,850 ha of forest has been lost in the period of 2007-2009. The REDD+ initiative aims to provide with incentives for reducing the deforestation and degradation of forests. India has robust policies, legislation, and remote sensing capabilities, but is not ready to be benefitted from the REDD+ mechanism, with the potential flow of large financial benefits to rural and forest-dependent communities from international financial sources.

Some evidence exists to show that land-use changes and forest/soil degradation affect c pools significantly (Upahadaya et al., 2005). According to the findings by Upadhyay et al 1.47 × 106 Mg year−1 carbon emission was estimated for the year 1994, which represented Carbon emission from fuel wood consumption and loss of soil due to erosion and less Carbon fixation due to annual vegetation growth. Baland and Mookherjee ........ investigated relation between economic growth, household firewood collection, and forest condition in Nepal between 2003 and 2010. The study uses satellite and household (Nepal Living standard Measurement Survey) data. The projection that was conducted on the impact of economic growth based on Engel curves turns out to be inaccurate: forest conditions remain stable despite considerable growth in household consumption and income. It was found that firewood collection at the village level remains stable, and the effects of demographic growth were offset by substantial reductions in per-household collections. Households substituted firewood with alternative sources, particularly when livestock and farm-based occupation declined in importance. It was concluded that the Himalayan region has a high potential for Carbon sequestration through vegetation and soil by improving the management of degraded lands.

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