Significance of Forests
Forests exert an overbearing influence on life on earth. It not only provides a safe heaven for a richly diverse biota but also favourably modify climatic parameters. The importance of forests is, thus, multidimensional and this makes deforestation a process with devastating and wide ranging consequences. The significance of forests can be considered under economic, ecological and cultural significance.
Economic Significance of Forests
- It is one of the largest renewable natural resources. Forests provide a wide variety of goods and services including food, fodder, wood, rubber, latex, resins, waxes, steroids, lubricants, flavourings, dyes, incense and fibres. That, many of these substances could be harvested on a sustainable basis further enhances the long-term resource value of forests.
- The forest biodiversity has immense economic value. The rich flora and fauna of the forests hold the key to numerous life sustaining products, such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides.
- Economic value derived from the ecological stabilizing function of forests. For instance, by preventing soil erosion, forests pre-empt economic inputs into erosion management, thereby translating potential expenditure into savings. However, the actual economic value of the contributions of forests in stabilizing ecosystems, modifying climate systems and maintaining life support systems, is difficult to estimate.
These are the most vitally important contributions of forests, which are held responsible for maintaining conditions for life on earth.
- Forests stabilize global climate. They do so by profoundly influencing natural cycles, in particular, the hydrological and carbon cycles. The temporal and spatial patterns of rainfall are greatly affected by forests, as they form an essential component in the hydrological cycle. Similarly, forests can also influence the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and therefore, the extent of greenhouse effect and global warming. More forests would naturally mean greater removal of atmospheric CO2 during photosynthesis and a resultant reduction of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. In fact, large-scale afforestation has been advocated as a method to reduce greenhouse effect.
- They protect biodiversity. Forests are the greatest repository of biodiversity on land, as they provide ideal conditions for the survival and growth of living organisms. The number of species per unit area is much greater in a forest than in any other terrestrial biome. For example, the tropical rainforests cover less than 7% of the earth’s land surface, but harbour more than 50% of all known species. About 62% of all known plants are found in these rainforests. The growing awareness about the necessity to conserve biodiversity is helping man to realize the significance of forests too.
- Forests support natural ecological systems and processes. These so called “life support systems” maintained by forests, are being disrupted by the unabated destruction of forests. Following are specific examples of how forests sustain such life support systems:
- Forests check soil and wind erosion, and thereby preserve the top soil.
- They prevent landslides.
- Maintain soil fertility.
- They prevent floods by acting as a sponge. The forest canopy breaks up and slows down the raindrops while the forest bed soaks up the water before slowly releasing it into streams. This prevents the rapid runoff of rainwater into the rivers.
- Forests regulate silting of water bodies including reservoirs.
- They improve air quality. Forests are capable of absorbing toxic gases and particulate matter. They are particularly useful in refreshing the urban air, laden with vehicular and industrial emissions.
- They protect watersheds and ensure perennial supplies of fresh water.
Forests have been strongly interwoven with the cultural ethos of human civilizations. Even in today’s modern materialistic society, signs of such cultural bonds persist.
- Forests have great aesthetic value. Their green canopy and dense surroundings have always held a great appeal to the human mind.
- They have recreational and tourist value. This is evidenced by the rising popular appeal of ecotourism and safaris.
- Forests have great spiritual significance for several communities.
The above discussion on the significance of forests makes it amply clear that the incessant depletion of our forest resources would have serious economic, ecological as well as cultural consequences.
Extent of forest cover
Forests and woodlands are estimated to occupy 28% of the total land area of the earth, thereby covering an area of 4.05 billion hectares (ha). Closed canopy forests where the leaves and twigs of adjacent trees touch each other account for two-thirds of this forested land, while the rest are open-canopy forests or woodlands, where the tree canopy covers less than 20% of the ground, like in the African savannas.
Table 10.1. Forests in the different continents (percent of total world forests)
Seven countries (Russia, Brazil, Canada, the United States, China, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of Congoe (formerly Zaire) account for more than 60% of the total forest cover.
The extent of forest cover in India is reported to be ranging between 11 to 24% of the total land area, depending upon the reporting agency and the method used in mapping. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) based at Dehradun was established in 1981 with the purpose of periodically monitoring the changing situation of land and forest resources. FSI prepares a comprehensive State of the Forest Report (SFR) including the National Forest Vegetation Map (NVM) every two years. The State of the Forest Report (2005) presents the ninth assessment of forest cover of the country using satellite remote sensing technology from the IRS-IB, IC & ID satellites. According to SFR 2005, the forest cover of the country is 678,33 km constituting 20.64% of the geographic area. Among the states, Madhya Pradesh accounts for the largest forest cover of the country with 20.68% followed by Arunachal Pradesh (10.80%), Orissa (7.38%), Maharashtra (7.32%) and Andhra Pradesh (6.94%). The seven North-Eastern states together comprise 25.70% of the total forest cover.
Special significance in the SFR-2003 are: (i) Introduction of an additional class of forest cover by splitting the dense forest cover (canopy density above 40%) into two classes, namely, very dense forest (canopy density more than 70%) and moderately dense forest (canopy density between 40-70%) while the open forest cover having a density of 10- 40% remain the same. The same criterion has been applied in the case of mangroves also; (ii) Another newly incorporated feature is the chapter on Growing Stock of wood, which provides the information on volumes of wood in forest and non-forest areas; (iii) The extent of water bodies within the forest cover have also been assessed.
Indian forests are predominated by the tropical deciduous forests (both wet and dry), which account for more than two-thirds of the total forest cover. Other types include tropical rainforests, tropical thorn, temperate coniferous forests etc. However, India has one of the lowest per capita forest areas in the world, 0.1 ha as compared to a world average of 1 ha.
Table: 10. 2. Groups of Indian forest
|Tropical groups||Seven groups are recognised|
|Type||Broad characters||Major Tree Types|
|Wet Evergreen Forest||Dense tall forest, 45 m. Or even higher, entirely evergreen or nearly so. No species occurs gregariously. No individual species form more than 1 % of the upper canopy.||Dipterocarpus, Actocarpus, Hopea, Dysoxylum and Mesua.|
|Semi Evergreen Forest||Dominants include deciduous species but evergreens predominate. The general canopy is typically less dense than the true evergreen||Doltercarpus, Artocarpus, Terminalia, Albizzia and Phoeta|
|Moist Deciduous Forest||Dominates mainly deciduous but subdominant and lower canopy largely evergreen. Canopy rarely dense and even but over 25m. high.||Tectona grandis (Teak) in south, Shorea robusta (Sal) in north, Albizzia, Terminalia, Lagerstroemia, Gmelina, Pterocarpus and Dalbergia.|
|Littoral and Swamp Forest||Mainly evergreen, of varying density and height, but always associated with wetness.||Casuarina, Heritiera, Manilkara and Rhysophera.|
|Dry Deciduous||Entirely deciduous or nearly so. Top canopy rather than light and rarely over 25 m high usually 8-20 metres.||Teak in south, sal in north, Anogeissus, Terminalia, Madhuca and Diospyros.|
|Thorn Forest||Deciduous with low thorny trees. Canopy more or less broken. Height under 10 metres.||Prosopis, Acacia, Caltropis, Salvadora and Euphorbia.|
|Dry Evergreen Forest||Hard leaved, evergreen trees, predominant with some deciduous emergents, often dense but usually under 20 m. high||Manilkara and Mimusops|
|SUB-TROPICAL GROUPS||Comprises three types of groups|
|Sub-Tropical Hill Forest||Broad leaved, largely evergreen high forest.||Calophyllum, Cinnamomum, Castanopsis, Schima and Maichelia|
|Sub-Tropical Pine Forest||Pine associated predominant||Pinus roxburghii (in west) and Pinus insularis (in east)|
|Sub-Tropical Evergreen Forest||Low xerophytic forest and scrub||Olea cuspida and Acacia modesta|
|TEMPERATE GROUPS||Comprises three types of groups|
|Montane Wet Temperate Forest||Evergreen forests without conifers||Temstroemia and Michelia in southern hills, and Qercus (Oak), Acer, Alnus and Machilusu in the Himalayas.|
|Himalayan Moist Temperate Forest||Evergreen forest mainly Oaks and Conifers||Cedrus deodora (Deodar), Abies pindrow (Fir), Quercus (Oak), Picea smithiana (Spruce).|
|Himalayan Dry Temperate Forest||Open coniferous forest with sparse xerophytic undergrowth||Pinus wallichiana, Pinus gerardiana and Quercus ilex in west, and Picea spinulosa, Pinus wallichiana and Betula in east.|
|ALPINE GROUPS||These are only in the Himalaya and connected ranges. Above the timber limit, high forests are replaced by Alpine scrub varying in form with the available moisture supply. Three types of groups are recognised.|
|Sub-Alpine Forest||Stunt deciduous or evergreen forest, usually in close formation, with or without conifers.||Picea smithiana and Abies spectabilis in west and Abies densa and Betula utilis in east.|
|Moist Alpine Scrub||Low but often dense scrub||Betul a utilis and Rhododendron campanulatum|
|Dry Alpine Scrub||Xerophytic scrub in open formation||Juniperus cummunis and Juniperus wallichiana in west and Juniperus recurva in east.|
Table 10.3. The occurrence of various forest types in the country
|Forest type||Area (km2)||%age||Occurrence|
|Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest||51,2490||8.0||Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur, Nagaland|
|Tropical Semi- Evergreen Forest||26,424||4.1||Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Goa|
|Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest||2,36,794||37.0||Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Goa, Dadar & Nagar Haveli|
|Littoral and Swamp Forest||4,046||0.6||Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands|
|1,86,620||28.6||Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal|
|Tropical Thorn Forest||16,491||2.6||Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.|
|1,404||0.2||Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu|
|Sub-Tropical Broad Leaved Hill Forest||2,781||0.4||Assam, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala|
|Sub-Tropical Pine||42,37||6.6||Arunachal Pradesh, Forest Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Naga land, Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh|
|Sub-Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest||12,538||2.5||Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Mizoram|
|Montane Wet Temperate Forest||23,365||3.6||Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tamil Nadu|
|Himalayan Moist Temperate Forest||22,012||3.4||Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttaranchal.|
|Himalayan Dry Temperate Forest||312||–||Jammu & Kashmir and Uttaranchal|
|Sub-Alpine and Alpine Forest||18,628||2.9||Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, Sikkim and Uttaranchal.|
Source: Forest Survey of India
Deforestation is the temporary or permanent removal of forest cover from a forested land for agriculture or other purposes. Man has used deforestation as a primary tool in furthering the cause of colonizing the land and in the process caused irreversible ecological imbalances. Deforestation has brought about the most dramatic and extensive alterations in the volume and distribution of the earth’s biomass. Richly diverse forests were replaced by agricultural cropland, pastoral land, scrubland or plantations. In the past, greater impact of deforestation was felt in temperate latitudes, the Mediterranean basin and Asia. However, in more recent times the focus has shifted to the remaining forests, the north boreal and tropical rainforests. Widespread deforestation will have far reaching and devastating implications such as loss of flora and fauna, changes in the microclimatic conditions inside the forests, disruptions of hydrological cycles and destabilization of global climate.
Extent and Rates of Deforestation
Deforestation began during the Palaeolithic times, accelerated since the Neolithic age (approx. 8000 B.C.) and became extremely rapid in the last 200 years. The role of humans is illustrated well by the fact that the most disastrous levels of deforestation occurred in areas that witnessed the birth of early civilizations, such as the Mediterranean basin, the Indus valley, China and Mexico. As civilizations advanced, more areas, such as Europe, came under threat. Colonization of the New World as well as the East greatly accelerated the destruction of forests.
The extent of deforestation can easily be surmised from the comparison between the present forest cover and that during the pre-agricultural period. Ten thousand years ago, before the advent of agriculture, forests covered 6.2 billion ha or almost 50% of the total land surface on earth. Today, we are left with only 4.05 billion ha of forests and even that cover is dwindling rapidly.
During the Roman times, the Hercynian forests covered nine-tenths of Europe. By the late Middle Ages, 80% of Europe’s original forests vanished and only small fragments of them remain now. Similarly, more than 75% of the forests in the USA had been felled within 100 years of American Independence, and today less than 5% of the original woodlots remain. In China, 70% of the area had forest cover at the end of the Palaeolithic age, but only about 8% remain now. The Thar desert in India was an impenetrable jungle until barely 2000 years ago.
Today, deforestation continues in areas where forests still remain, particularly in the tropics, mountain regions and in high latitudes. The advent of modern transportation and heavy earth moving machines coupled with high population pressure has ensured that deforestation continues in many areas. The chief hotspots at present include the Amazonian basin, Western and Central Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific regions including Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. According to the FAO, Southeast Asia and Latin America have already lost 40% of their forests, Central Africa more than half and Central America more than two thirds.
In India, one estimate says forests are being depleting at a rate of 1.5 million ha per year. Remote sensing data indicate that 7.2 million ha was lost during the period 1983- 2004. The environmental cost of deforestation in India is estimated to be US $ 478 million.
Tropical Rainforests and Deforestation
The tropical rain forests are the richest and densest habitat on earth and contain over half the world’s insects, birds, animals and plants. These forests are called ‘Green Deserts’ as they are formed in nutrient-poor soils. The trees and other plants send out shallow roots to soak up nutrients from the forest bed full of wastes, fallen leaves, dead trees and rotting organic matter. The rate of formation of tropical rain forests is extremely slow.
Tropical rain forests occupied 1.6 billion ha of land, but has now shrunk to just 0.9 billion ha, thus leaving only about half of the original area. They are found near the equatorial regions of Central and South America, Africa, Asia and on Pacific islands. Tropical forests occur in 73 countries, with 70% of them in just 10 countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Zaire, Peru, Columbia and India. The largest single tract of tropical rain forest, nearly one third of the total, is the Amazon in Brazil, which covers a third of South America. Although they occupy only 7% of the total land surface, tropical rain forests provide the habitat for 62% of all known plants, half of all known insects and birds as well as 90% of all primates. The Amazon forests alone have 20% of all birds on earth.
The tropical rain forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. However, a survey using satellite observations for the first time, calculated that the rate of destruction had increased to about 16.4 million ha annually. The Amazonian rain forests alone have lost about 23 million ha by 1988 at a rate of 1.5 million ha per year and by the time it one reads this chapter, on area larger than 200 football fields will have been destroyed. Each year, thousands of square kilometers of Brazils rainforest fails to agriculture. Removal of trees causes the rapid deterioration of the exposed soils, which are then eroded by the torrential rains. After the rains cease the hot sun hardens the surface and renders it incapable of supporting vegetation.
Exploiting the Amazonian forest
Brazil holds about 30 per cent of Earth’s remaining tropical rain forest. The Amazon Basin produces roughly 20 per cent of Earth’s oxygen, creates much of its own rainfall, and harbors many unknown species. But the Amazon is under constant attack as settlement spreads and exploitation of its natural abundance continues. Between 2000 and 2005, Brazil lost more than 50,000 square miles of rain forest.
Deforested area: Clear-cutting for ranching and farming is the main destroyer of Brazil’s rain forest. Undetected selective logging consumes additional forest. About a fifth of the Brazilian Amazon’s 1.6 million square miles of natural cover has been stripped.
Fire: Red crosses (main map and inset at right) represent forest fires on one day, September 17, 2005. The number of fires nearly doubled early this decade. Half are accidental; the rest are set to clear land. The resulting release of carbon dioxide helps make Brazil a leading contributor of greenhouse gases.
Urban zones: Tens of thousands of square miles are classified urban in the Brazilian Amazon, where development and habitat destruction keep swallowing up wilderness. The region now contains 13.5 million people, 70 per cent of whom live in or near cities.
Land reform: Since 1994, more than half a million poor, landless families have been granted property in agrarian reform settlements. Many of these settlers make quick money by illegally selling timber and land. Road networks creating fish-bone patterns through forest are the visible imprint of this activity.
Roads: Ecological destruction follows roads. Eighty percent of deforested land is within 30 miles of a road.
Protected areas: Hundreds of state and federal parks and reserves cover 15 percent of the Brazilian Amazon. About half is strictly off-limits to any kind of development (through enforcement is lax), while sustainable production is allowed elsewhere.
Indigenous areas: About a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon is set aside as Indian land. Indigenous peoples’ respect for ancestral grounds can preserve islands of pristine wilderness amid destruction.
Courtesy: National Geographic Magazine
Causes of Deforestation
Though natural causes can account for some degree of forest destruction, it is abundantly clear that most of the damage is inflicted by human activities. Exploitation of forests was inevitable, considering the richness of their resources and the human trait of enterprise. The manner and intensity of exploitation determines the durability of natural forest resources. Broadly, there are two forms of exploitation – destructive and conservative. The destructive forms of exploitation involve clear felling of trees, overgrazing, over-farming and over-hunting. On the contrary, the conservative method applies certain safeguards in the use of forests, and does not significantly alter its structure or productivity. It includes selective felling of trees, moderate levels of grazing and some recreational and tourist use. Deforestation resulting from overexploitation by the human population can be attributed to two sets of causes, the more explicit immediate causes and the less obvious underlying causes.
Table 10. 4. Summary of the causes of deforestation.
- Immediate/Explicit Causes
- Logging for wood
Firewood and paper
Land use changes
Permanent and Shifting agriculture
Tree and cash crop plantations
Mining for minerals and oils
Cultivation of illegal narcotics
Insect pest attacks
Diseases Climatic changes
- Underlying Causes
- Socio-economic factors Population growth Economic development Poverty and landlessness
Physical and Environmental factors
Distribution of forests Proximity of rivers Proximity of roads
Distance from urban centres Topography
- Government Policies Development policies Agricultural policies Forestry policies
- Historical Causes
Immediate Causes of Deforestation
These are the explicit causes, easily visible and accountable even to a casual observer. Logging, land use changes and indirect deforestation are the chief immediate causes of forest destruction.
- Logging: Traditionally, forests have been viewed primarily as a source of timber, and forest productivity was equated to its timber yield. In the past, logging was carried out indiscriminately by clear-cutting a forest, resulting in its total destruction. Selective logging practised more in recent times causes less damage but can still lead to changes in forest structure. Logging is undertaken due to the heavy demand for wood. The total wood consumption in the world stands at 3.6 billion m3 per year. Wood is mainly used for industrial wood (1.76 billion m3 per year), firewood (1.67 billion m3 per year) and paper manufacture (223 million metric tons). a. Industrial Wood: It is used to make plywood, veneer, particle board, chip board, panels etc., and it accounts for half the total wood consumption.
Interestingly, the developed countries produce only 50% of the total industrial wood, but consume as much as 80% of the total world production.
b. Fuel wood/Firewood: Wood is a major source of energy and more than half the world population depend on it for their principal source of heating and cooking fuel. In the developed countries, firewood provides less than 1% of the total commercial energy, while in the developing countries it provides 25% of the energy. On an average, the quantity of wood used for cooking and heating in developing countries is 1 m3 per person per year. The impact of this on forests is evident from the annual supply deficit of fuel wood. There was a deficit of 400 million m3 in 1990. It is estimated to rise to 2600 million m3 by 2025. In India, fuel wood consumption stands at 243 million m3 per year, as compared to a sustainable level of production of only 48 million m3, thereby leading to severe depletion of forests.
2. Land use changes: Forests are not destroyed for exploiting their resources alone, but also for acquiring the land on which they stand for various human activities. A list of such land use conversions is given in Table 10.4.
Conversion of forestland to agricultural land dates back to the introduction of agriculture. Forests growing on good soils were particularly denuded for cultivation. In fact, logging operations make it easy for the conversion of forests to cropland. Roads built during logging allow farmers and landless settlers to penetrate deeper into the once inaccessible parts of the forest. The partially deforested patches abandoned by the loggers are then easily converted into monoculture farms or plantations.
- Shifting Agriculture: Also known as Swidden cultivation, Slash-and-burn cultivation or Jhum cultivation, it is a primitive agricultural system in which parts of a forest are repeatedly cleared, cultivated and then abandoned for regeneration over a period of many years. This was used in Europe during the Neolithic period, and is still widely used by nomadic tribes and indigenous communities of South America and Africa. A small plot (1-2 acre) of forestland is cleared by burning, which releases nutrients required for the cultivated crops. After a few seasons of cultivation, the plot is abandoned and this fallow period allows the forest to regenerate and soil fertility to be regained. Long cycle swidden cultivation with fallow periods of 15 years or more is sustainable and does not endanger the forest. However, increasing population pressure forces the cycles to become shorter, with the result that the same forest areas are revisited sooner than they could regenerate. These shorter fallow periods steadily lead to a reduction in soil fertility and subsequent loss of forests. In India, shifting cultivation is practised in many of the North Eastern states. The total area affected by jhum cultivation was reported to be 7.40 million ha in 1975 (by FAO), and 3.8 million ha in 1983 by a Task Force on shifting cultivation. The SFR-2004 reported an area of 1.81 million ha under jhum cultivation, with Nagaland (0.39 million ha) and Mizoram together accounting for 65% of the total area under jhum cultivation.
Forest lands also have been converted as pasture for grazing as well as plantations (for example, rubber, tea, cocoa, etc). The British colonialists converted huge tracts
of forests, particularly on hill slopes into tea and coffee plantations. Mining and hydroelectric projects can totally eliminate forests along with their biota.
3.Indirect Deforestation: Human activities, by accident or by design, may indirectly result in damage to forests. Such human interferences combined with some natural processes may sometimes turn into disasters for forest ecosystems.
Forest fires wreck havoc in many parts of the world almost every year. and consequently, fire management has become an essential component in forestry management. Not all forest fires may have the involvement of a human element, and some are even considered beneficial. For example, the Californian forests of Giant Sequoia cannot be regenerated unless there are occasional undergrowth fires. If this does not occur, the less fire resistant species with more rapid rates of growth will outgrow the young Sequoia trees. Such tree formations are called ‘pyroclimax’, in which the dominant tree species are favoured by the passage of fire. Even in the northern coniferous forests, spontaneous fires break out every 200-300 years, which accelerate the mineralization of woody matter and plant detritus that would have otherwise taken a longer time under the sub-arctic conditions.
Pest infestations and outbreak of diseases in forests may also occur due to natural causes. But human interventions appear to aggravate such attacks. Global climate changes, such as the greenhouse effect, may cause serious disturbances in the structure of the forest ecosystems. Forests are forced to migrate along with the shifting climate zones. This may be too slow or even impossible leading to the extinction of forest systems.
(ii) Forest Death (Waldsterben): Pollution of the environment by human activities poses a great threat to many forests. Forest death, also called as ‘forest dieback’ or ‘Waldsterben’, is a specific example of how pollution can cause the total decimation of forests. Waldsterben (‘forest death’ in German) was first noticed in the early 1970’s in the German coniferous forests. The damage is indicated by death of standing trees, yellowing of pine needles, poorly formed shoots and falling of needles even while they are green. By 1986, it had spread across 19 European countries, affecting nearly 50 million ha of forests. In Germany, 52% of its forests were affected and recent reports suggest that the damage is now extending to the Third world forests, such as the pine forests in China’s Sichuan Province.
Initially, it was thought that forest death was caused by acid rain, but now it is believed that numerous other factors may also be involved, such as ozone and other gaseous pollutants, infestations of fungi, insects and pathogens, as well as wind and frost. Emerging evidences point to the combined effects of many such factors as the cause of forest death.
Underlying Causes of Deforestation
The various human activities resulting in deforestation are necessitated by a number of factors. These underlying factors may range from poverty of the population to the topography of the affected forest to governmental policy initiatives (Table 10. 2). In order to understand the dynamics of the problem and to work out effective solutions, a clear insight into these underlying causes is essential.
- Socio-economic factors: These are among the most compelling factors leading up to forest depletion. The uncontrolled growth of population, for instance, is at the root of the over-exploitation of forest resources, since greater numbers increase the demand for goods and services. It is not a coincidence that deforestation rates are currently the highest in the developing countries of the tropics, which also top the population growth charts. In India, population has grown from 361 million in 1951 to 1 billion in 2000. To meet the requirements of food production, the area under agriculture has increased from 118 million ha in 1951 to 145 million ha at present.
Economic development of an area may have both negative and positive impacts on the health of forests. With greater development, there could be an increase in the rates of consumption of food and other materials, leading to over-exploitation. However, on the positive side, a developed society can make greater investments in better forest management, such as more fertilizers, high yielding tree crops etc. The fate of forest resources, therefore, depends not only on the level of economic development, but also on the manner in which that development was achieved and managed. Poverty precludes investments in more productive farming practices, and its association with landlessness puts further pressure on forests.
2. Physical and Environmental factors: These factors determine how vulnerable a forest is to human interferences. Forest distribution in relation to the nearest human settlement, proximity of rivers and roads to the forest and the distance to urban centres together determine the ease of access to the forest. Physical factors like topography (including the slope and aspect of the area) and soil fertility will determine the human interest in a particular area. For instance, a forest on a steep slope of very poor soil quality is less likely to attract agricultural settlers. Thus, these factors influence the rate and direction of the spread of deforestation.
3. Government policies: Various steps initiated as part of the government policies on development, agriculture, industry and forestry may endanger forest resource. For instance, the building of highways, roads and other infrastructure as part of national development strategies may adversely affect forest areas, and trigger a ripple effect ultimately leading to the destruction of forests.
4.Historical causes: Deforestation is a consequence of the continuation of a long historical process. An analysis of human history will reveal several critical events, which had exerted significant influences on the rate and spread of deforestation.
- Hunter-gatherers: This early stage had the least impact on forests, since man was leading nomadic lives and the population density was as low as
0.25 persons per sq km.
- Rise of agriculture and civilization: The transition from hunter- gatherers to farmers occurred about 10,000 years ago and it marked the beginning of systematic deforestation.
- Spread of colonial rule: Beginning with Latin America in the 6th century
A.D. and followed by most of Africa and Asia, colonial powers carried their agenda of exploitation far and wide. The natural and mineral resources of the invaded countries were plundered with impunity. One of the heritages of
colonial rule was the radical change in the land use patterns, especially in the tropics. Natural resources were converted into trading commodities and in the process huge plantations of tea, coffee, rubber, cocoa and other cash crops replaced forests. The plantations also converted the local communities into labourers rather than managers of their local resources.
5. Industrial revolution and the material society: This recent turn in human history saw an unprecedented range of changes in land use patterns. The demand for mineral resources led to widespread mining activity that left many forests irreversibly damaged. In 2004, out of the 90,000 ha of land under mining activity in India, 60% was under forest cover, of which 71% was dense forest (SFR, 2004). The post-industrial revolution period is also characterized by the over-exploitation of material resources, such as wood, and the inundation of forest areas in the quest for hydropower.
Conservation of forests
Conservation of resources, including forest resources aims at their rational and cautious use, so that they will remain available for future generations. Forest conservation is intimately linked with the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife. Thus, an integrated approach needs to be developed to obtain optimum results. As with other forms of resource conservation, forest conservation involves in situ conservation as the fundamental method and ex situ conservation as the main supplementary method. However, the actual method to be employed for a particular area may vary greatly and no method can be transplanted from one area to another without the necessary modifications. The broad contours of the conservation effort are outlined in policy documents specific for each country, such as the National Forest Policy in India. India has a rich tradition of respecting and protecting forests. Chanakya’s ‘Arthashastra’ prescribes guidelines for the maintenance of protected forests, called “Abhayaranya”.
Forest Policy in India
India boasts of a forest policy dating back to 1894. This was revised in 1952 and again amended in 1988. The National Forest Policy of 1988 emphasises the concepts of protection, conservation and development of forests. Its main aims are,
- maintenance of environmental stability through the preservation and restoration of ecological balance,
- conservation of natural heritage,
- control of soil erosion and denudation in catchment areas of rivers, lakes and reservoirs,
- check on extension of sand dunes in desert areas,
- increase in forest tree cover through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes,
- meet requirements of tribal and rural populations of firewood. Fodder, minor forest produce and soft timber,
- increase the overall productivity of forests for national needs,
- encourage efficient utilization of forest produce and optimum substitution of wood,
- encourage the participation of people in achieving these objectives.
The Forest Policy is implemented through a National Forestry Action Programme and separate State Forestry Action Programmes for each state. The Forest (Conservation) Act 1980, which provides the legal framework for forest conservation in India, makes it mandatory that prior approval of the central government is required for diversion of forest lands for non-forest purposes. This has dramatically reduced such land use conversions from about 1.4 lakh ha per year before 1980 to less than 25,000 ha per year.
National Forestry Action Programme (NFAP)
NFAP, released in late 1999, took 4 years in the making. Its prime objective is to “achieve sustainable development and conservation of forest resources” through the involvement of all stakeholders including the local community. NFAP prescribes that,
- Tribals must be involved in all aspects of forestry,
- There should be active involvement of people in decision making process,
- Integrated and multipurpose management should be adopted in preference to single-purpose monoculture,
- There should be a ‘national policy on grazing’
- Tenurial security to forest dwellers and tribal communities need to be ensured, and
- A system of benefit sharing with participating parties/people be established. NFAP hopes to create 750 million person days of employment every year.
Joint Forest Management (JFM)
The National Forest Policy, 1988 prescribes the creation of a massive people’s movement through involvement of village communities living close to the forest for the protection and development of forests. The Government of India, in pursuance of this policy, issued a notification in June 1990 asking the State Governments to involve local communities in the management of forests. It is envisaged that the communities, in lieu of their participation in protection and development of forest areas, will be entitled to sharing of the forest produce. Thus, JFM is a countrywide programme initiated by the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) to facilitate participatory management of ‘degraded’ forest lands. This was to be achieved by activating village level JFM Committees. JFM was initially tried out in the forest areas of southwestern Bengal, where it was a great success. According to government sources, 22 State Governments have issued resolutions in this regard and have evolved their own mechanisms of involving local communities in conformity with the proclaimed policy. The local institutions engaged in the task are known by different names in different states like Forest Protection Committee (FPC), Village Forest Committee (VFC), Van Samrakshan Samiti (VSS), Village Forest Protection Management Committee (VFPMC) etc. Currently about 36,130 JFM Committees in 22 states are managing a total of 10.25 million ha of ‘degraded’ forest area. Madhya Pradesh alone accounts for more than 50 per cent of the area under JFM, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa. In
February 2000 the guidelines for JFM were modified to make it more participatory and powerful. Under the modified scheme,
- JFM is being extended to “good” forests too, but with conditions,
- Women will comprise 50% of all JFM general bodies and 33% of all executive committees,
- Self-initiated measures by committees can now be registered under the JFM programme,
- JFM Committees will be provided legal status
If extended to all the forests and their adjoining areas and given more powers, JFM has the potential to become one of the most effective means of forest protection and conservation.
Forest Conservation Strategies
Protection and maintenance of forest ecosystems could be done in situ (= at the site) or, if necessary, ex situ (=off the site), by integrating it with the conservation of biodiversity. In India, in situ forest conservation is effected through a chain of protected areas, which fall under the 10 Biosphere Reserves, 89 National Parks and 504 Sanctuaries, spread across the country. However, there are vast areas of forest land outside these protected network of areas and conservation of these forests is equally critical. Ex situ conservation of forest trees is practised in order to maintain ecologically endangered systems. Tissue culture techniques can be employed for the propagation of trees. The establishment of botanical gardens, seed banks, gene banks, etc. can help in the preservation of the genetic diversity of forests. However, the major thrust in most of the conservation efforts still continues to be two-pronged – improve the canopy cover in degraded forest by reforestation, and convert non-forest and degraded wastelands into forests by afforestation. Together, these two strategies have resulted in a net gain in the forest cover in many areas.
The replanting of trees and the regeneration of a forest, in areas previously cleared of their forest cover is referred to as reforestation. Many countries have aggressively pursued reforestation programmes with positive results. South Korea, which lost nearly all of its forests during the civil war, brought 70% of its forests back, and Japanese reforestation efforts increased its forest area to 68% of its land surface. In India too, many forest areas ravaged by deforestation are being brought back under forest cover, especially in states like Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and West Bengal.
For a long time, great emphasis was laid on encouraging large monoculture tree plantations as the sole means of achieving reforestation targets. Large sized plantations employing single-species, single-use, intensive cropping were readily adopted since they were more result oriented. These monoculture plantations produce a high density of a single or a few species in a relatively short period.
Monoculture Plantations and its Consequences
In monoculture, natural forests and woodlands are replaced by plantations consisting of rows of trees belonging to one or a few species. These forest plantations were initially introduced for short-term profitability particularly in Europe. The trees were chosen for their commercial value, and speed of growth and included species of conifers, poplars, and eucalyptus. Soon, monoculture forestry became the primary method in many result-oriented reforestation and afforestation programmes due to the fast growth of these species. However, such monoculture plantations make a mockery of ecological principles and eventually end up as ecological disasters. They suffer from the following disadvantages and undesirable consequences:
- The tree populations completely lack diversity and have almost the same age;
- Highly vulnerable to attacks by pests and pathogens. For example, bark beetles, which are not dangerous in natural conifers, assume disastrous proportions in monoculture spruce plantations;
- Alteration in soil structure,
- Production of a mor-humus and fulvic acid which encourage podsolization,
- Reduction in the porosity of topsoil making it impermeable;
- Modification of water cycle;
- Increase in run-off water,
- Increased loss of water due to evaporation;
- Effects on soil fauna, like earthworms, arthropods and decomposers;
- Decrease in earthworm population,
- Reduction in arthropod diversity,
- Reduction in bacterial decomposer activity;
- Greatly reduced density and diversity of bird life, due to the mono-specific and uniformly aged tree populations;
- Higher susceptibility to forest fire, especially in conifer forests;
- Higher levels of input costs, in the form of pesticides and fertilizers.
Alternative reforestation programmes employing multi-purpose trees in community woodlots are now being encouraged in many countries by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). One such tree being promoted in the tropical regions of Africa, Latin America and Asia, is Leucaena. Being a legume, it improves the soil, provides good shade, livestock fodder, firewood and quality timber, grows at a rate of 3m/yr and can give a sustained yield of 50 tons per ha. Multiple-use species, such as these, will be more readily accepted and adopted by the local communities, a key factor in the success of any reforestation programme.
The planting of trees on land hitherto unoccupied by trees or forests is called afforestation. Trees are planted on available land, mainly public land. Ideally, areas contiguous with forestland are chosen for afforestation, although it can be carried out on hill slopes, roadsides, and recreational parks, around and along water bodies or even on wasteland. In India, it is unlikely that agriculture land will be available for expansion of forest cover, other than those where agroforestry is being practised. The potential areas on which forest cover can be expanded through afforestation in India are the “culturable wastelands”, covering 13.94 million ha and part of the “fallow land and other than current fallows”, covering 9.89 million ha. Both indigenous and exotic species are employed depending on the conditions. However, afforestation may not succeed in every area, since it increases the demand for water and soil nutrients. The effect it may have on the local conditions should be carefully assessed before launching such programmes. Like in the case of reforestation, there is a tendency to adopt monoculture methods in afforestation too, with similar consequences, most of which are undesirable. In India, the National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB) undertakes the tasks of regenerating degraded forests and afforestation.
National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board (NAEB)
The NAEB under the Ministry of Environment & Forests was established in 1992, after bifurcating the national Wastelands Development Board (NWDB) into NAEB and the Department of Wastelands Development. The chief objective of NAEB is to promote afforestation, tree plantation, eco-restoration and other eco-development activities. The detailed role and functions of the NAEB are:
- Evolve mechanisms for ecological restoration of degraded forest areas and adjoining lands through systematic planning and implementation;
- Restore through natural regeneration or appropriate intervention the forest cover in the country for ecological security and to meet the fuelwood, fodder and other needs of the rural communities;
- Sponsor research and extension;
- Create general awareness and encourage people’s movement for promoting afforestation and eco-development; and
- Coordinate and monitor the Action Plans for afforestation, tree planting, ecological restoration and eco-development.
NAEB has commissioned various schemes to realize these objectives, such as the,
- Integrated Afforestation and Eco-Development Projects Scheme (IAEPS),
- Area Oriented Fuelwood and Fodder Projects Scheme (AOFFP),
- Scheme of Aerial Seeding,
- Seed Development Scheme,
- Scheme for raising Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP) including Medicinal Plants
Afforestation programmes are area oriented and specifically target degraded forest areas, lands contiguous with forests, national parks and other protected areas, and ecologically fragile areas like the Western Himalayas, Western Ghats and the Aravallis. Major eco-restoration work involving afforestation, pasture development, and soil and water conservation has been undertaken by the NAEB in ecologically sensitive states such as J&K, UP and Rajasthan. The implementation strategy of the NAEB schemes during the 10th Five Year Plan includes Joint Forest Management, Microplanning, Incorporation of Improved technologies, Monitoring, and Evaluation of projects.
Types of Forestry Practices
Based on the nature of a forest, the degree and type of its exploitation for human needs, and the level of participatory management, forestry practices can be divided into Protection forestry, Production forestry and Community forestry (including Social and Agroforestry). Accordingly, the management practices for each forest system would vary considerably.
This is practised in areas where the forests are ecologically very fragile and are hence greatly endangered. Such areas demand protection from any form of exploitation as even relatively minor disruptions by human activity may result in serious imbalances. Therefore, no commercial exploitative activity is allowed in protected forests. Areas in the country where the main water regimes are located are examples of such forestry practices. In India, protection forestry is practised by designating forests as reserve forests, and by having a network of Protected Areas (PA), in the form of Biosphere Reserves, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
Forests are capable of yielding many products on a sustainable basis. The traditional uses of forests, such as tapping rubber, harvesting fruits, oils and medicinal plants, and practising agroforestry, are non-destructive in nature. If not overdone, they allow enough time for the forest to regenerate and provide continuous yields over a long time. Many studies have shown that the economic returns from such traditional practices are much higher than the returns obtained from logging, shifting agriculture or cattle ranching. The total income from fruits and latex in a tropical forest was 9 times as much as the income from its timber. Even timber can be harvested on a sustainable basis by employing methods such as strip cutting.
Various management strategies are being employed to ensure sustainable production along with the conservation of forests. These include:
- Use an ecosystem approach to forest management; because the success of trees depends on soils, climate, competition, parasites and herbivores.
- Remove poorly formed and unproductive trees to permit larger trees to grow faster.
- Use genetically controlled seedlings to improve the quality of trees and increase productivity.
- Application of fertilizers to optimise growth.
- Management of insect attacks and disease infestations.
- Encourage ‘multiple use’ of the forest resources, such as for timber, fodder, fuel, wildlife, recreation and water supply. However, multiple use should not mean all parts of a forest be managed for all uses. The natural variation of different areas can be used to manage each part for a different purpose.
- Manage forest fire scientifically, as fire may also have beneficial effects on a forest. ‘Controlled burning’ is now an accepted practice in forestry and it helps in reducing the damage from wildfires, controlling certain tree diseases, and in increasing food and habitat for wildlife.
- Encourage abandonment of wood as fuel and develop new sources of energy. As a transition measure, establish plantations specifically for firewood in order to preserve natural woodlands.
- Choose the ideal silvicultural system for a particular forest.
Silvicultural Management and Forest Conservation
Silviculture is the practice of growing trees and managing forests, traditionally with an emphasis on the production of timber. It involves the management of plantations through the regulation of species composition, growth and regeneration. Silvicultural techniques determine the overall impact on the forest ecosystems. The method used in harvesting wood is one such practice system with varying consequences for the forest.
- Clear-cutting system of silviculture: All trees are simultaneously felled over an area, the trunks are removed and the remainder of the trees is left and burnt. Up to 50% of the biomass of the tree is thus wasted. Since the soil is left bare, this leads to soil erosion and disturbances in the pattern and nature of surface waterways in the forest. It also changes chemical cycling in soils resulting in the loss of nutrients.
- Selection system of silviculture: Selected mature trees are felled and the younger ones are left standing. This system leaves the diversity and productivity of forests almost unchanged.
- Shelterwood system: This is employed to reduce competition between individual trees belonging to the same or to different species. It aims to encourage the growth of the best individual trees and to achieve this two or more cuttings are carried out over several years. During the first cutting most of the young trees are removed leaving the mature trees to provide seeds for further seedlings and shelter for the remaining young ones. A second cutting later removes the mature trees at the appropriate time. This system is employed in the regeneration of overexploited forests.
- Strip cutting system of silviculture: Narrow rows of forest are cut, leaving wooded corridors or tracts. The uncut or wooded strips protect regenerating trees in the cut strips from wind and direct sunlight. The trees that remain also provide seeds for regeneration.
This is a diverse group of forestry practices, which primarily aims at achieving forest conservation with the active participation of the local community. Community forestry is defined as “forestry designed and applied to meet local social, household and environmental needs and to favour local economic development”. The relevance of such practices lies in the fact that there is a huge human population living in areas contiguous to or adjoining forests. Since they are dependent on the forests for their own survival, they would also be highly motivated in preserving those forest resources. According to SFR 2004, there are about 170,000 inhabited villages with a total population of 147 million located in the proximity of the forest areas in India. In community forestry, professional foresters and other experts help villages to develop woodlots and to regenerate degraded forests in order to achieve sustainable local harvest to meet local needs. Forest conservation thus becomes a collective responsibility as well as a participatory effort.
Some of the common management strategies employed in community forestry programmes are;
- limiting, not banning, access to forest resources,
- cutting the slower growing and poorer burning species first, so that the better firewood species grow faster,
- make proper use of plantations,
- avoid conflict between local traditional activities and forestry management methods.
As indicated earlier, there are many practice systems, which fall under community forestry, but none more widely discussed and described than social forestry and agroforestry.
Social forestry includes practices aimed at using public and common land to produce firewood, fodder and small timber in a decentralized way, in order to relieve the pressure on conservation of forests. At least in theory, it embodies the virtues of community involvement and participation in achieving the goal of forest protection along with the development of some degree of self-reliance for the local community. Social forestry, thus represents, an acknowledgement of the rights of local populations.
Social forestry programmes are designed to motivate large numbers of people to plant trees, to promote trees which can supply firewood, small timber, grasses and income, and to provide increased benefits to the poorer strata in society. These programmes are especially aimed at involving farmers and the landless. Social forestry can incorporate a wide variety of activities, including farmers growing wood to sell or use for firewood, and individuals earning income from the gathering, processing and sale of minor forest products such as fruits nuts, mushrooms, herbs and honey. While conventional production forestry focuses on the wood that trees produce, social forestry focuses on people, on community involvement and on the trees that provide direct and indirect benefits locally. The approach therefore is used to create immediate economic and social benefits to local people or communities from their immediate locality.
Advantages of social forestry
- Provides opportunities for reforestation,
- Enables local village-level management of soil and water conservation,
- Promotes the maintenance or even enhancement of biodiversity,
- Enhances the possibility for tourism and ecotourism,
- Contributes to the livelihood of the poor by providing food supplements, wood for construction, firewood and fodder,
- Increases locally available jobs and income.
Thus, social forestry is an important option for forest resource management with a local development outlook, and due to its emphasis on participatory management, it can go a long way in conserving endangered forests.
Agroforestry is a collective name for all land use systems and practices in which woody perennials are deliberately grown on the same land management unit as crops and/or livestock with the aim of obtaining output on a sustainable basis. It is a land-use approach that yields both wood products and crops, as it integrates tree growing into farming systems. The main premise in its practice is that woody perennials in the landscape can enhance the productivity and sustainability of agricultural practice. It has been employed for many years, particularly in developing countries, and is now widely promoted as a main tool in social forestry programmes involving farmers. The United States Department of Agriculture defines agroforestry as “the combination of agriculture and forestry technologies to create more integrated, diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems.”
In agroforestry, land is used for agriculture, forestry and/or animal husbandry, simultaneously. Thus, one can have agri-silvicultural agroforestry, where agriculture and forestry are carried out simultaneously, agri-pastoral agroforestry, where agriculture and livestock are maintained on the same land or agri-silvi-pastoral agroforestry with all the three co-exisiting. Trees and crops may be grown together on the same tract of land in various patterns and cycles. The trees may be planted around the perimeter of a small farm to provide fuelwood and to serve as a windbreak. The foliage may be removed for livestock fodder. Trees may also be planted in rows that alternate with crops or they may be planted more densely with interplanting of crops. For instance, the ‘Alley cropping’ method in Nigeria cultivates arable crops between rows of planted trees and shrubs. Another method is the ‘Garden’ technique in Sri Lanka, which is practised in small farms, and yields a wide array of crops including coconut, maize, banana and other fruits. These farms have been very efficient in preventing soil erosion. Many similar methods are being attempted in the tropics to include intercropping with coconuts as the woody component and mixing tree legumes with annual crops. Although these practices are used more as a part of subsistence
agriculture, their use in large-scale production systems is becoming increasingly common.
According to the Association for Temperate Agroforestry, an agroforestry application must show the following characteristics:
- The land, along with the animals, plants and trees on it, must be intentionally managed as a group,
- The land must be intensively managed, in order to obtain the greatest benefits from it while still protecting it,
- Agroforestry projects must have different parts that are interactive,
- The animals and the trees co-exist, but each must be managed separately.
Successful introduction of agroforestry requires co-operative efforts of experts from various disciplines such as agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, ecology and meteorology. It also demands that due consideration be given to the local culture and heritage during both the design and implementation stages.
Benefits of Agroforestry
- Sustainability: Despite being an intensive process it is sustainable and therefore does not put any pressure on the future resources.
- Biodiversity: Agroforestry can help return true biodiversity to the farmland. Forests or tree stands provide natural cover for animals and allow them to regain their lost habitat. Higher diversity can also prevent the build up of diseases and pests.
- Erosion Control: Agroforestry provides an easy and inexpensive means to help keep land around water sources intact, without having to resort to environmentally dangerous and costly artificial structures, like walls or shore dams.
- Pollution Control: Intensive agriculture results in the build up of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, which cause pollution of water and soil. Agroforestry can use trees to filter out many of these pollutants and keep them from further contaminating surrounding environments.
- Climate Moderation: Growth of trees may bring about some degree of climate moderation making the area much more liveable for all creatures.
- Income generation: Combining agriculture, forestry as well as livestock into agroforestry maximizes one’s potential earnings while making best use of the resources at hand.
- Diversification: Agroforestry allows the biological and economical diversification of the land as well as the rural community. By combining forestry and agriculture, the farmer/forester can diversify their holdings and get a better overall value on their property. Diversification can stimulate rural economic development by creating additional and more stable income for the community.
- Government Control: Agroforestry can help reduce the need for overbearing and costly governmental regulations aimed at protecting forest and land resources by law.
Agroforestry can halt and may even reverse the damage caused by existing practices since it uses techniques that combine production of both food and forest products. Therefore, this approach is especially pertinent in tropical and sub-tropical areas where improper land management and intensive cropping of land have led to widespread devastation. However, it still remains largely unpopular in the industrialized countries because it does not easily permit mechanization. Current agroforestry practices are individualized for each site and are labour intensive.
In India, the National Research Centre for Agroforestry, located at Jhansi, looks after the All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Agroforestry (AICRPAF). Objectives of the project are to,
- identify and document forestry practices followed by the farmers in different regions of the country,
- identify forest, fruit and other tree species useful for agroforestry in different agroclimatic regions of the country,
- develop agrotechniques for their successful cultivation, and for sexual propagation of high priority species,
- establish seed orchards of promising species,
- identify crops and cropping sequences which can be grown successfully in association with trees,
- develop agroforestry systems for the economic exploitation of wastelands found in different regions of the country,
- analysis of social, anthropological and economic links of agroforestry systems with particular emphasis to women, children, tribal and landless farmers,
- use of agroforestry intervention in watershed, wasteland and community land development as well as in combating , pollution, pests, diseases, fire, soil degradation, salinity and alkalinity.
Major achievements of the project are as follows:
Multipurpose trees as well as compatible intercrops for irrigated areas of Bundelkhand region have been identified and their agrotechniques standardised.
Inventory of diseases and pests of selected agroforestry species generated and plant protection measures for some of the species developed.
Aonla (Emblica ofiicinalis) based agrihorticulture technology standardised for the development of degraded lands of Bundelkhand region. Highly remunerative Aonla
varieties, Kanchan and NA7, with potential to yield 120 kg fruit per tree have been identified.
In-situ budding technique for Aonla developed which results in higher survival even inpoor soil.
Underexploited minor fruits trees such as Chironji (Buchnania lanzon) identified for agroforestry.
Multi purpose tree species such as Dalberga sissoo, Albizia procera , and Leucaena leucocephala, were identified for higher productivity of degraded lands in silvipastoral system.
Techniques for Neem (Azadirachta indica) tree and Kardhai (Anogeissus pendula)
Vegetative propogation techniques using stem cutting in Dalbergia sissoo and Albizia amara and root cuttings in Melia dubia have been standardised.
Research trials of agroforestry practices established in the villages of Karari, Simardha and Bhattagaon.
Increasing awareness on the significance of forests has caused many communities to mobilize themselves into action by, formulating new local rules for forest use, banning tree felling and wildlife hunting, restricting grazing, and even penalizing members and outsiders for violations. Nearly 1800 ha of forests in Mendha (Lekha) in Maharashtra and about 600 ha in Jardharagaon in U.P. are protected and conserved by the local communities.