Rhetoric and Reality of Biodiversity Conservation in Community Forests of Nepal

Sujata Shrestha

This study aims 1) to quantify the role of CFs in forest cover change at regional level and 2) to measure the impacts of anthropogenic activities on biodiversity of community forests of Gorkha district at local level.

Community forests of ludikhola watershed.

Community forests of ludikhola watershed.

The community forestry program in Nepal, initiated three decades ago, has now become the major forestry program in Nepal. Under this program local communities manage and protect forests and receive ecosystem services- mainly provisional services from the forests. With increasing importance of carbon sequestration services of forests in the age of climate change, community-managed forests of Nepal are considered as one of the potential forested areas to implement REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) program. Visual observation suggests that community forests have increased forest cover and improved forest conditions. However the quantitative measurement for forest cover change is lacking. Furthermore, improved forest conditions do not guarantee increased biodiversity. The forest management practices are largely motivated by utilitarian patterns of community forestry user groups (CFUGs). Thus structure and composition of forests are heavily dependent on CFUGs’ forest management strategies, regulatory mechanisms and access allocations.

Ludikhola watershed.

Ludikhola watershed.

This study aims:

1) to quantify the role of CFs in forest cover change at regional level

2) to measure the impacts of anthropogenic activities on biodiversity of community forests of Gorkha district at local level.

The quantitative measurement of forest cover changes as a result of community forestry program at a regional level will deliver the latest forest cover change information. In local level this study particularly document the status of biodiversity and existing regulatory mechanism, analyze forest management practices, and evaluate accessibility to CFUGs based on diverse socio-economic factors of the users. The identification of the status of biodiversity, drivers of biodiversity change and measurement of the impacts of these drivers on biodiversity of community forests will help to devise appropriate policy and management responses, formulate better forest management strategies, improve regulatory mechanisms and change coercive access regimes for biodiversity conservation. Furthermore the REDD+ program that initially focused only on carbon stock enhancement, later insisted on multiple forest functions including biodiversity conservation. Therefore, understanding the role of community forests on forest cover change and biodiversity conservation is essential to mitigate current and future challenges in mainstreaming biodiversity in community forests.

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