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Impact of climate change on forests in eastern Himalayas and Countermeasures

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https://www.eduzhai.net/ International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(3): 98-104 DOI: 10.5923/j.ijaf.20130303.05 Impact of Climate Change on Forests of Eastern Himalayas and Adaptation Strategies for Combating it Afaq Majid Wani1, Antony Joseph Raj2,*, M. Kanwar3 1College of Forestry & Environment, Allahabad A gricultural Institute-Deemed University, Allahabad-U.P. 211007, India 2Department of Land Resources and Environmental Protection, College of A griculture, P.O. Box 231, M ekelle University, M ekelle, Et hiop ia 3Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia, 2424 M ain M all, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4 Abstract The Eastern Himalayas (EH) contains a variety of flora and fauna. The forests of India, Nepal and Bhutan the three major countries of Eastern Himalayas are directly or indirectly affected by climate change. Projected climate change will adversely affect the forests and increase invasion of pests, invasive plants and cause change in forest types. These counties have so far mainly focused on mitigation strategies but now the need to explore and promote adaptation has been realized. This leads to the formulation of adaptation strategies recently. The review of these strategies has shown that the adaptation options adopted by these countries are not enough for combating climate change and for effective management of forests other adaptation strategies have to be adopted which covers areas that already adopted strategies are lacking. Adaptation options like controlling forest fires, the creation of protected and corridors would be effective in conserving the forests of these countries. There are many barriers for the adoption of adaptation strategies and there in need to overcome them fo r the proper imp lementation of adaptation options. Keywords Adaptation, Climate Change, Climate Impacts, Eastern Himalayas 1. Introduction Eastern Himalayas (EH) contains a wide range of flora and fauna that exhibit a high proportion of endemism[1-4]. It has been reported that there are around 700 orchids, 58 bamboos, 28 conifers, 7,500 species of flo wering plants, 500 mosses, 64 citrus, 700 ferns, and 728 lichens[4]. Out of the five countries covered by EH namely Bhutan, Ch ina, India, Myanmar, and Nepal three countries i.e. India, Nepal and Bhutan are chosen for the review. The climate change will have a profound effect on the future distribution, productivity, and health of forests. Climate change is expected to affect the boundaries of forest types and areas, primary productivity, species populations and migration, the occurrence of pests and diseases, and forest regeneration[5]. Mainly two options are available for co mbating climate change i.e. adaptation and mit igation but so far there has been more emphasis on the mit igation as co mpared to adaptation both globally as well as in EH[6]. The reason for this could be that climate change emerged as a problem related to the long-term disturbance of the global geo-biochemica l cycles and associated effects on the climate * Corresponding author: drajr.aaidu@gmail.com (Antony Joseph Raj) Published online at https://www.eduzhai.net Copyright © 2013 Scientific & Academic Publishing. All Rights Reserved system[7]. But adaptation has more advantages as compared to mitigation because the results of adaptation activities are obtained faster than the mitigation. The mit igation has a broader approach whereas adaptation measures are implacab le on a regional and local level. Also, even if vigorous mit igation measures are taken then also some amount of climate change is unavoidable due to previous emissions[6]. There’s no doubt that a certain community based forestry programs like, Co mmun ity Forestry (CF) and Leasehold Forestry (LF) in Nepal, Joint Forest Management (JFM) in India and Co mmunity-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM ) in Bhutan[4],[8] has performed quite well in these counties but seeing the pace of climate change and their effects these programs need revisions. For the effective imp lementation of conservation measures at regional and local level the alliance of institutions, stakeholders, forest staffs and forest communit ies is required. The forest management practices adopted by local communit ies vary fro m region to region depending on soil profile and climatic conditions of an area hence it become important to acknowledge their knowledge and take it into account while framing new forest programs and policies. For better results extensive research should be carried out to find out better adaptation practices but for this first it becomes important to find out a present and future climate trends in EH. Fo rest policies should be flexible and adaptable at all local and national levels. International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(3): 98-104 99 This paper discusses the impact of climate change on the forests of India, Nepal and Bhutan. An attempt is made to choose the adaptation strategies besides the already adopted ones that could be applied to these countries by carefully examining the specific conditions (environ mental, social, political, and economic) of the region. Further, the existing barriers to the adoption of adaptation strategies are also presented and ways to overcome them has been discussed with the fo llo wing objective: 1) What would be the d ifference between the p resent and future climate? 2) What’s the impact of climate change on fo rests of India, Nepal and Bhutan? 3) What would be the adaptation options other than the adaptation options that they have already framed for combating climate change? 4) What are the ways for overcoming the barriers to adopting adaptation strategies? characteristic of Eastern Himalayas is concerned very less informat ion is available because of the non availability of appropriate climatic data. For the analysis of the effect of climate change on forests of EH climatic data for a long period of time is required but there is scarcity of such data. It has been observed that like other parts of the world EH is also experiencing warming above 0.01 per year. As shown in a table 1 that during DJF (December, January and February) i.e winter the rate of warming is more as compared to summer. The lo wer elevation (<1000m) has less warming rate as compared to mid (<4000m) and higher (>4000m) elev atio n s [10] . Table 1. Temperature Trends by Elevation Zone for the Period 1970–2000 (°C/yr) Level Annual DJF MAM JJA SON Level 1: (<1000 m) 0.01 0.03 0.00 -0.01 0.02 Level 2: (1 –4000 m) 0.02 0.03 0.02 -0.01 0.02 Level 3: (> 4000 m) 0.04 0.06 0.04 0.02 0.03 2. Materials and Methods Out of the five countries traversed by the Eastern Himalayas namely Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, and Nepal three countries i.e. India, Nepal and Bhutan are selected for the study. The reas on for s electing them is firstly, they contribute to the maximu m percent share of aerial extent. Secondly, geography, cropping pattern, climate, and dependence of local co mmunities on forests are almost similar. Third ly, till now all the climate change dialogues are carried out between these three countries which mean they are working on the same platform[4]. The adaptation strategies these countries are adopting are very basic which includes only silvicu ltural aspect. No criticis ms of the strategies are done because no harm would be caused by them and are applicable to the fo rests. The strategies lack broad and mu lti-scale approach and many things are neglected for example, there’s no mention about local co mmunit ies knowledge and active participation. In the discussion part of the paper the adaptation strategies are discussed that should be included into forest management. Two criteria’s are opted for their selection: first, the already adopted strategies are co mpared with other tropical and some developed countries. Second, environmental, social, polit ical, economic conditions of the countries are taken into account and the strategies that are most suitable under those conditions is selected and advised to inculcate into fo rest management. The barriers that will co me while adopting the strategies is reported and also the ways for overcoming them are presented. The paper is concluded by pointing out the h ig h lig h ts . 3. Results 3.1. Current and Future Climate Projections During the past 100 years the Himalayan reg ion has shown continuous warming trends[9]. As far as the climatic The future projections for the EH are[4]: ● By 2080s the rate of warming in summer would increase by at least 2.8°C whereas in the winter rate of warming is likely to increase by at least 3.6°C. ● There would be an increase in average winter as well as summer precipitation. The winter precip itation would increase by 23 to 35% and summer (monsoon) precipitation by 17 to 28%. ● It is projected that although there is an increase in summer precipitation the summers would be hot because of an increase in evapotranspiration. For India, it is projected that by the end of the century the mean surface temperature would vary fro m 3.5 to 5°C. There would be a rise of 7 to 20% in mean annual precipitation[11]. General, Nepal would e xpe rience rise in annual temperature. The warming rate wou ld be more in winter as compared to summer. There would be mo re precipitation in summer than winter[12] for Nepal indicate that there would be decrease in winter precipitation by 20 to 30% by 2050s, however it is expected that overall p recipitat ion would increase[13]. 3.2. Impact on Forests 3.2.1. Observed Impacts on Forests The Eastern Himalayas are young mountains and are more fragile and this makes them vulnerab le to climate change and the situation is made worse by economic marginality[4]. The people of India, Nepal and Bhutan are dependent on resources provided by the diverse Eastern Himalayan ecosystem. During recent years the rise in population has increased the pressure on natural resources. For fulfilling the needs of a growing population there is more destruction of forests and if the population would keep on increasing like this then there will be more co mpetit ion for the resources this would further lead to destruction of scarce resources and services provided by them[14]. Natural ecosystems and their sustainability has been affected by climate change. Some of the ecosystems or 100 Afaq M ajid Wani et al.: Impact of Climate Change on Forests of Eastern Himalayas and Adaptation Strategies for Combating it habitats have become critical because of climate change. One such example of crit ical habitat is the alpine and sub alpine reg ions situated between 4000-5,500 m amsl. The changes in ecotones, less rainfall, less productivity, alterations in species composition, rise in temperature has led to the formation of ‘Kru mmholz-type’ formation wh ich was previously Quercus-Betula forest. The Quercus (oak) and Betula (birch) found in the Quercus-Betula forests are replaced by the other tree species like Salix (willo w), Syringia (lilac) and Rhododendron (azalea)[8]. The observed impacts of climate change on forests of India, Nepal and Bhutan are[14-15]: ● Changes in phenology, migrat ion and breeding of flora and fauna; ● More flora and fauna species becoming critically endangered; ● Reduction in forest biodiversity; ● Expansion of invasive and obnoxious weeds; ● Decrease in food, fodder and other services provided by forests; ● More incidences of forest fires, insects and pests. 3.2.2. Pro jected Impacts of Climate Change on Forests India: Projected climate change has shown that most of the forests in India are likely to be affected by climate change[16]. There would be change in flora and fauna of forests in the future[17]. A lterations in forest types and change in the plant and animal phenology would adversely affect biodiversity[18]. Many valuable forest types that play an important role in the economics of India are projected to changes for examp le, Tectona grandis (Teak), Bambusa spp. (Bamboo), Shorea robusta (Sal) and Pinus spp. (Pine). It is also predicted that Net Primary Productivity (NPP) of some dominant vegetation types i.e. Tropical Xerophytic Shrubland, Tropical Deciduous Forest, Warm M ixed Fo rest and Tropical Semi-deciduous Forest will increase by 1.35– 1.57 times[15]. The regeneration of v iviparous species like Shorea robusta (Sal) and Quercus semecarpifolia (Kharsu) would be effected. Viv ipary is the germination o f seeds while they are still on a tree. Seed maturation and germination occurs during July during the onset of monsoon when a lot of water is available naturally due to a rainy season. Climate change can change the timing of a monsoon or hot summer may lead to earlier maturation of seeds. In both cases the regeneration of the species would be affected[4]. Nepal: Forests are the source of firewood, food, g rasses and herbs for the people of Nepal. Especially fo rest communit ies are highly dependent on the forests for their livelihood[15]. Globally, it has been noticed that there is northern and upland shift in the species. Projected climate change has shown that upland shift in species will lead to the e xtinction of species and alterations in forest types[19-22]. It has been reported that presently there are 15 forest types in Nepal namely tropical mo ist, tropical dry, tropical wet, subtropical moist, subtropical wet, subtropical dry, warm temperate rain, warm temperate mo ist, warm temperate wet, warm temperate dry, cool temperate mo ist, cool temperate wet, cool temperate dry, cool temperate steppe and boreal dry bush. But due to rise in carbon dioxide leve l there will be left only 12 forest types namely t ropical dry, tropical mo ist, tropical rain, subtropical dry, subtropical mo ist, subtropical wet, subtropical rain, warm temperate dry, warm mo ist, warm wet, warm thorn steppe and desert bush”[15]. The situation will be worse with a rise in te mperature and rainfa ll variation. Bhutan: Due to climate change some species will experience mo re rainfall and the fo rests cover of these areas are likely to increase. But there is also a danger of more attack by insect and pests. There will be an upland or northern shift of species. Some species of flora and fauna that occur in higher altitude will extinct due to an upland s h ift[15 ]. 4. Discussion There are two options available i.e. mitigation and adaptation for dealing with climate change[23]. Since the climate change came into the scenario mo re emphasis was on mitigation, eventually India, Nepal and Bhutan has incorporated adaptation strategies into the forest management[6]. Mit igation is related to the reduction of greenhouse gases and therefore, directly to the reduction of climate change. The IPCC[18] defines adaptation to climate change as “adjustment in natural or hu man systems in response to actual or expected climat ic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exp loits beneficial opportunities”. The adaptation is the manner in which we adjust ourselves in response to or in anticipation of climate change[23]. The adaptation strategies that are adopted by these countries are[6],[15]: ● Avoiding monoculture and preferring mixed species fo res try ; ● Effective management of fires; ● Implementation of better management practices; ● Protecting biodiversity by in situ and ex situ conservation of biodiversity; ● Production of tree species that are tolerant to insect and pests; and ● Adopting practices that maintain sustainability of fo res ts . These strategies are mainly focused on maintain ing the forest area but the other sectors related to ma intaining health and vigor of forests, productive capacity of forest ecosystem and socio benefits in the forests are neglected. There are lots of adaptation options that can be adopted by these countries that have already been adopted by other countries. Keeping in mind environmental, social, political and economic conditions of India, Nepal and Bhutan the adaptation strategies that can be adopted by these countries are discussed below: International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(3): 98-104 101 4.1. Adaptati on Options for Mai ntaining Biol ogical Di versity of a Forest Ecosystem 4.1.1. Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation Deforestation and forest degradation is one of the b iggest problems in India, Nepal and Bhutan4. There are many reasons for deforestation and forest degradation. Local people are dependent on non timber forest products provided by forests. Cutting of forests for agriculture is a major cause of deforestation[24]. In some areas of India and Nepal, zhoom or shift ing cultivation is practiced where the piece of land where agricu lture was done before was left abandoned and the area of fo rest is burned and cultivation is done on it for few years and left fallow again[25]. For controlling such practices, people should be made aware of the damage done by such practices also, some financial aid or employ ment should be provided to the local people to recover from farming or livestock failure. Illegal logging is also prevalent in the forests of these countries[26]. There is need to rev ise forest policies and laws so that they can be implemented in effective manner to control illegal logging. Programs should be launched where local people are involved in preventing illegal logging. The rights should be given to local co mmunities to meet their demands of fuel wood, timber or non timber forest products. The timber should be kept in stock in forest depots to avoid a shortage in case of over demand or eme rgency. Rura l people in these countries obtain firewood fro m forests. The use of firewood increase concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For reducing the pressure on forests for firewood renewab le energy sources and eco-friendly equipments like solar cooker and induction cooker can be u s ed . 4.1.2. Protected Areas Protected areas play an important ro le in the conservation of biodiversity. Due to climate change more and more species are becoming endangered[23]. For conserving biodiversity there is need for creating mo re protected areas or extending areas of already existing protected areas. In order to allow free movement of species with changing climate the formation of p rotected areas along elevation gradients should be encouraged. The species selected for conservation should be chosen keeping in mind the climate of an area and must contain species that are more resilient to climate change in the habitat of protected area. 4.1.3. Maintenance or Creat ion of Corridors During recent years, lots of frag mentation of fo rests has occurred in three countries[15]. The gaps and patches created by fragmentation adversely affect the biodiversity of forests[27]. Frag mented forests are more likely to be affected by climate change as compared to intact and large forests because of less resistance. In order to maintain the resilience of frag mented forests corridors should be created. The corridors created would allow free movement of d ifferent species of flora and fauna[28-30]. The corridors created will help in protecting species that are less in nu mber and also those that have narrow a habitat range for examp le, Hoolock hoolock (Hoolock gibbon) and Ailurus fulgens (Red panda)[8]. Forecasting of the movement of species can be done by using habitat models. This would help in connecting various habitats through corridors. The warming caused by climate change would force species to move upward. It means that in the future there would be a movement of species from lower to higher alt itudes[19-20],[22],[31]. Natural migration of species can be anticipated by adoption of strategies like landscape level[32]. Th is would help species to find more suitable habitats also called as ‘new climate space’[31]. 4.2. Adaptati on Options for Mai ntaining the Health and Vigor of Forest Ecosystem Climate change will affect the health and vigor of forests in India , Nepal and Bhutan. Climate change and warming of EH will make forests vulnerable to insects, pests and more susceptible to forest fires. 4.2.1. Forest Fire Control Forest fires contribute to global warming. Forest fires occur due to man-made or natural reasons. In India, Nepal and Bhutan forest fires occur due to man-made reasons[33]. It means that the fire in these areas is not caused by climatic reasons but is caused due to carelessness of the people living around forests. Thus it becomes important to aware people about the harm caused by forest fires and to educate them how they can contribute in controlling factors that cause fire, in this way local co mmun ities would be involved in management of forest fires. These countries cannot afford a supply of modern equipment in all forest areas because of scarcity of funds[34]. Keeping financial constraint in mind and also lack of sophisticated equipments the alternative strategies should be adopted for management of forest fires. The adaptation strategies that can be adopted are tracing of areas that are more susceptible to fires, upgrading of fire forecasting systems, providing training to the local people for controlling forest fire, banning grazing during the hot summer, using satellite imageries for sensing forest fires, the creation of effective fire management plans, prohibiting slash burn during a dry and hot season and asking people not to practice agricultural systems that involve burning of forests for examp le, shifting cultivation. 4.3. Strategies for Maintaining the Producti ve Capacity of Forests 4.3.1. Plantations For meeting the demand of timber and fuel wood India, Nepal and Bhutan is launching many afforestation and reforestation programs[6]. For better results some considerations should be taken into account while raising plantations. The climate and soil profile of the area should be suitable to tree species selected for plantations. The species 102 Afaq M ajid Wani et al.: Impact of Climate Change on Forests of Eastern Himalayas and Adaptation Strategies for Combating it should be adaptable to the projected climate change. Mixed species plantation is more advantageous and successful as compared to monocultures[35-36]. It ’s better to have a mixtu re of species because monocultures are more susceptible to drought, insect and pest attack. As afforestation is mostly done on degraded land and has less productive capacity therefore those tree species should be selected that are nitrogen fixing and capable of increasing biomass production[37-38]. 4.4. Strategy for Enhancing the Socioeconomic Benefits in the Forests the impact of climate change on forests at local, national and international level. Studies should be done to exp lore the rich flora and fauna of EH and take immediate actions to conserve the vulnerable and endangered species. Collaboration among governments and research institutes of not only India, Nepal and Bhutan but all the Eastern Himalayan is needed so that effective adaptation strategies are applied for co mbating climate change. The creation of a proper information-sharing mechanism would enable exchange of informat ion among all EH countries[4]. For collecting info rmation and data on climate change trends across EH a climate base stations should be created. 4.4.1. Loca l People Involve ment The involvement of local people in management of forests would help in adaption to climate change. “Co mmunity Forestry (CF) and Leasehold Forestry (LF) in Nepal, Joint Forest Management (JFM ) in India and Co mmunity-Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM ) in Bhutan”[39] are co mmunity based programs. Though the programs are successful but there is need to upgrade them as far as rights of local co mmunit ies are concerned. There is need to frame forest policies or acts by which people will be allowed to extract and also trade minor forest products from forests plantations. The involvement of people in these programs will develop a feeling of belongingness in them. This would encourage them to conserve forests and environment. These forest policies will not only help in controlling illegal extraction of timber and minor forest products but also increase forest stock. This in the long term would help in protecting forests and people fro m climate change. 4.5. Barriers There are obstacles to the adoption of adaptation strategies in India, Nepal and Bhutan. These challenges will affect efficiency of adaptation strategies. The barriers are d iscussed below: 4.5.1. Lac k of Laws and Institutional Capacity Various capacity building actions like train ing, research are taken for dealing with climate change. But nothing much has been done yet at policy level and still India, Nepal and Bhutan lack the laws that would lead to adoption of c limate change in government rules and policies[4]. The reason for this lack is poor institutional capacity. Adaptation should be incorporated into forest laws and policies. Fo r effective capacity building it is must to accept climate change in government planning, conduct research on the past, present and future climate change trends, and develop models suggesting various adaptation options at different climatic co n d itio n s . 4.5.3. Poor Association between Natural Resources Conservation and Poverty Reduction The forest communities are d irectly and indirectly dependent on forests[8]. For co mbating climate change the government might restrict the access of the communit ies to forests or other natural resources. This may lead to the conflict between the forest communities and the government that will auto matically negatively affect conservation efforts. For the successful conservation of resources the local communit ies should be involved in the forest management. The governments should take efforts to decrease the dependence of local co mmunit ies on forests by educating them about the impact of climate change and arranging for alternative non-forest based income sources for examp le, beekeeping and herb cultivation. 4.5.4. Lack of Funding For effect ive imp lementation of adaptation strategies lots of funds are required. In India, Nepal and Bhutan fund are mostly allocated for mitigation strategies[6]. Fo r more flow of money it is essential to aware donors about benefits of adaptation. There is need to carry research for calcu lating value on biodiversity. Determining of value would help in convincing donors and planners. 4.5.5. Transnational Co-operation a mong EH Transnational co-operation among EH countries for combating climate change is needed. It is clear that co-operation among EH countries is necessary because climate change cannot be dealt on an individual country basis. In 2010, four Himalayan countries i.e. Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal held meeting in Nepa l to discuss the actions that can be taken to tackle climate change which is termed as Himalayan consensus-2010. The EH countries should conduct seminars, symposiu ms and meetings to discuss the impact of climate change and adoption and implementation of adaptation strategies. 4.5.2. Lack of Knowledge and Research There is a lot of knowledge gap and little in formation on the impact of climate change on India, Nepal and Bhutan[5]. There is need to conduct more and mo re research to find out 5. Conclusions EH are known for its rich biodiversity. Like other parts of world climate change is affecting EH. The countries covered International Journal of A griculture and Forestry 2013, 3(3): 98-104 103 by EH contain a variety of forest types. Forests not only has an aesthetic and regulating role but are also a source of food, fodder, timber and minor fo rest products to local communit ies[4]. The rise in temperature and variation of rainfall is affecting flora and fauna of forests. To combat the effect of climate change on forests India, Nepal and Bhutan are adopting mitigation and adaptation strategies. Adoption of adaptation strategies will maintain health, productive capacity and biological diversity of forests. Those strategies should be adopted that would be most effective for combating climate change for long term. Not only in India, Nepal and Bhutan but also in other EH countries people are dependent on forests. Therefore, if the local co mmunity is not involved in planning of adaptation strategies and the measures taken for protecting forests from climate change then adaptation strategies adopted will fa il in its objective. It is necessary that the knowledge of fo rest communit ies should be taken into consideration and people are involved in forest management. There is need to analyze trends of climate change in the future because the choice of strategies that will be adopted today is completely dependent on the state of climate in the future. Institutional planning should be done in a manner that would effectively approach the climate change issues keeping in mind all national and loca l needs. Climate change is not something that is restricted to a particular area therefore, all the Eastern Himalayan countries should join hands together to combat the climate change menace. Adaptation if done properly will prove to be very effective in combating climate change on EH. 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