Vulnerability of Forest Vegetation Due to Anthropogenic Disturbances in Western Himalayan Region of India

Vulnerability of Forest Vegetation Due to Anthropogenic Disturbances in Western Himalayan Region of India

Akash (Gurukula Kangri University, India), Navneet (Gurukula Kangri University, India), Bhupendra Singh Bhandari (HNB Garhwal University, India) and Kamal Bijlwan (SGRR University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9771-1.ch013


The Western Himalayan zone of India is not only threatened by rapid climatic changes, natural floods, and fires, but also by anthropogenic activities. Himalayan forests are vulnerable due to climatic changes and faced severe ecological deterioration due to anthropogenic pressures. The degradation of forests due to anthropogenic disturbances is increasing because of overgrowth of population, high poverty ratio, as well as the limitations of alternative livelihood options. Further resources from forest makes it inseparable to manage forest stands without considering the importance of socio-economic status and ecological aspects of forest management to the well-being of local communities. Therefore, the Himalayan forests and the communities depending on forests should be seen as a part of an evolving. This chapter will explore the vulnerability of the knowledge towards Western Himalayan forests and community-based management of forests. Additionally, it will sketch potential sites affected through anthropogenic pressures.
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The forest-dominated mountainous landscapes provide a wide range of ecosystem services for people residing in the mountains as well as for people residing in lower hills and plains (Grêt-Regamey et al., 2013). Many species in the forest have been adapted as the climatic changes occur (Keenan, 2015), but the role of forest is critical in terms of socio-ecological status and provides various ecosystem services to the earth survivals (Pandey & Jha, 2012). As per the report of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), continuous changing of the climate has severely affected the ecological and social status (IPCC, 2014). Scientists and researchers argued that due to the climatic changes forest are facing vulnerability through human induced pressures which are mainly responsible for present condition of the plant species (Sharma et al., 2007). Forest of the world are facing severe anthropogenic pressures in various forms of pollutants, grazing, deforestation, trampling, scraping resulting into the loss of biodiversity (Akash and Navneet, 2019). The Western Himalaya, spanning across Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand is distinctly different from the Eastern Himalaya. Its gentler and wider slope, continental climate conditions with lower humidity and higher snowfall, lower tree line, narrow ranging and alpine scrub zone, and an overall lower primary productivity lends a vast difference in the biological diversity of the two regions (Miller, 1987; Mani, 1994). The Shivalik landscape is also called as sub Himalaya and considered as one of the youngest mountain in India. Its alignment is more or less parallel to lesser Himalaya. The region extends from the basin of Indus to Bhahmaputra with one gap of over 300 km form sapta kosi to Manas river (Kumar et al., 2010). The Shivalik region is categories under Indo-Gangetic plains and has great significance in terms of taxa from Indo- Malyalam and Palaeratic regions. The North-western part of India, representing six major types of zones which are Central, Eastern, Southern, Western as well as the North-eastern of the country covers Uttarakhand, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and a union territory of Chandigarh. On the basis of the physiographic, it has two zone named as and Indo- Gangetic plains and Himalayan Ecosystem. The Shivalik Landscape is the sandwiched between these two major physiographic region. This region is unstable due to the unstable shape of the landscape, unconsolidated land mass, torrential rains as well as the unscientific management practices (Yadav et al. 2005). Shivalik hills are one the youngest maintains ranges parallel to the other ranges in Himalaya. Himalayan forest has also faced severe vulnerability due to the anthropogenic as well as the natural pressures. The biodiversity and the productivity of forest in Himalayan region are under the effects of climatic changes (Sharma et al., 2015; Upgupta et al., 2015). The vulnerability of vegetation due to the biotic pressures are adjudged through the various changes in the phenological characteristics of plants (Pau et al., 2011), distribution of forest type (Chaturvedi et al., 2011; Gopalakrishnan et al., 2011; Upgupta et al., 2015) as well as the productivity of the vegetation. The assessment of vulnerability of different ecosystem of the forest requires descriptive understanding both in terms of abiotic and biotic factors of ecosystem which are mainly responsible for growth of vegetation in forest. The vulnerability of ecosystem of forest is enhanced by stress imposed by the human and natural factors which is beyond the capacity to adapt to stress (Pandey & Bardsley, 2015). It can also be expressed as the differences among adaptability and sensitivity (Zhang et al., 2017). The deviation in steady in ecosystem services are determined through the different variables of the ecosystem in a fixed time (Coulson & Joyce, 2006). On the other hand the forest’s vulnerability reveals the alteration in the relative features of carbon and distribution of forest (Kumar et al., 2018). In present, it is noticeable that changes in the habitats and its fragmentation as well as the loosing adaption of plants in forests would make them vulnerable, resulting into the existing alignment between various plants communities.

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