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Forest Conservation

Forest Conservation

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Published by: AMIN BUHARI ABDUL KHADER on Dec 11, 2009
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CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 95, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2008216*For correspondence. (e-mail: ravi@ces.iisc.ernet.in)
Forest conservation, afforestation andreforestation in India: Implications forforest carbon stocks
N. H. Ravindranath
*, Rajiv Kumar Chaturvedi
and Indu K. Murthy
Centre for Sustainable Technologies, and
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012, India
This article presents an assessment of the implicationsof past and current forest conservation and regenera-tion policies and programmes for forest carbon sink inIndia. The area under forests, including part of thearea afforested, is increasing and currently 67.83 mhaof area is under forest cover. Assuming that the cur-rent trend continues, the area under forest cover isprojected to reach 72 mha by 2030. Estimates of car-bon stock in Indian forests in both soil and vegetationrange from 8.58 to 9.57 GtC. The carbon stock in ex-isting forests is projected to be nearly stable over thenext 25 year period at 8.79 GtC. However, if the cur-rent rate of afforestation and reforestation is assumedto continue, the carbon stock could increase from8.79 GtC in 2006 to 9.75 GtC by 2030 – an increase of 11%. The estimates made in this study assume thatthe current trend will continue and do not includeforest degradation and loss of carbon stocks due tobiomass extraction, fire, grazing and other distur-bances.Keywords:
Afforestation, carbon stocks, conservation,reforestation.I
is a large developing country known for its diverseforest ecosystems and is also a mega-biodiversity country.Forest ecosystems in India are critical for biodiversity,watershed protection, and livelihoods of indigenous andrural communities. The National Communication of theGovernment of India to the UNFCCC has reported
thatthe forest sector is a marginal source of CO
emissions.India has formulated and implemented a number of poli-cies and programmes aimed at forest and biodiversityconservation, afforestation and reforestation. Further, Indiahas a goal
to bring one-third of the geographic area un-der forest and tree cover by 2012. All forest policies andprogrammes have implications for carbon sink and forestmanagement. This article presents an assessment of theimplications of past and current forest conservation andregeneration policies and programmes for forest carbonsink in India. It also estimates the carbon stocks undercurrent trend scenario for the existing forests as well asnew area brought under afforestation and reforestation forthe period 2006–30.We have primarily relied on published data from theMinistry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), Govern-ment of India (GOI); Food and Agricultural Organizationof United Nations (FAO), and Forest Survey of India(FSI). We have used the Comprehensive Mitigation Analy-sis Process (COMAP) model for projecting carbon stock estimates. The article is based only on past trends from1980 to 2005 and uses the assumption – ‘if the current trendcontinues’. We feel that such an assumption is well justi-fied because, despite the increase in population and in-dustrialization during 1980–2005, forest area in India notonly remained stable but has marginally increased. Thisis due to favourable policies and initiatives pursued byGOI. We expect that India will not only keep pursuingaggressive policies of afforestation and forest conserva-tion, but also go a step forward. A case in point is thePrime Minister’s recently announced ‘6 mha greeningprogramme’. If the assumptions of continuation of cur-rent rates of afforestation, forest conservation policiesand no significant degradation of forest carbon stocks arechanged, the future carbon stocks projected will alsochange.
Area under forests
According to FSI, ‘all lands, more than one hectare inarea, with a tree canopy density of more than 10 per centare defined as Forest’. The total forest cover in India ac-cording to the latest
State of Forest Report 2003 is67.83 mha and this constitutes 20.64% of the geographicarea. The distribution of area under very dense, dense andopen forest is given in Table 1. Dense forest dominates,accounting for about half of the total forest cover. Treecover (which includes forests of less than 1 ha) is 9.99 mha(3.04%). The total area under forest and tree cover is77.82 mha, which is 23.68% of the geographic area (Table 1).FAO
defines forests as ‘Land spanning more than 0.5 hawith trees higher than 5 m and a canopy cover of morethan 10%, or trees able to reach these thresholds
in situ
’.And other woodlands as ‘Land not classified as “Forest”,spanning more than 0.5 ha; with trees higher than 5 m
and a canopy cover of 5–10 per cent, or trees able toreach these thresholds
in situ
; or with a combined coverof shrubs, bushes and trees above 10 per cent. Both of these categories do not include the land that is predomi-nantly under agricultural or urban land use’. According toFAO, the area under forests and other wooded land inIndia has increased from 63.93 mha in 1990 to 67.70 mhain 2005. Thus FAO estimates do not significantly differfrom FSI estimates.
Trends in area under forest and tree cover
The FSI has been periodically estimating the forest coverin India since 1987, using remote sensing techniques. Theforest cover reported
for 1987 was 64.08 mha and ac-cording to the latest assessment
for 2003, the forestcover is 67.83 mha. This indicates an increase in forestcover of 3.75 mha over a period of 15 years (Figure 1). Itcan be observed from Figure 1 that the forest cover in In-dia has nearly stabilized and has been increasing margin-ally over the years
. FSI has included the tree cover inthe 2001 and 2003 assessments
, in addition to forestcover. The area under tree cover reported is also found tobe marginally increasing (Figure 1).
Afforestation and reforestation programmes
India has been implementing an aggressive afforestationprogramme. The country initiated large-scale afforesta-tion under the social forestry programme starting in the
Table 1.
Status of forest cover in India
 Per centTree crown class Area (mha) geographic areaVery dense forest (>70%) 5.13 1.56Dense forest (40–70%) 33.93 10.32Open forest (10–40%) 28.78 8.76Mangroves 0.45 0.14Total forest cover 67.83 20.64Tree cover 9.99 3.04Total 77.82 23.68Forest cover according to FAO 67.7
01020304050607080901987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003
   F  o  r  e  s   t  a  n   d   t  r  e  e  c  o  v  e  r   (   M   h  a   )
Forest cover Tree cover
Figure 1.
Trends in area under forest and tree cover
early 1980s. Figure 2 shows the progress of afforestationin India for the period 1951–2005. It can be seen fromFigure 2 that the cumulative area afforested in India dur-ing the period 1980–2005 is about 34 mha, at an averageannual rate
of 1.32 mha
. This includes community wood-lots, farm forestry, avenue plantations and agro-forestry.Afforestation and reforestation in India are being carriedout under various programmes, namely social forestryinitiated in the early 1980s, Joint Forest ManagementProgramme initiated in 1990, afforestation under NationalAfforestation and Eco-development Board (NAEB) pro-grammes since 1992, and private farmer and industry-initiated plantation forestry.
Future trends in area under forests andafforestation
The projections for area under forest as well as area affor-ested are based on current trends or what is generallytermed the ‘current trend scenario’. The current trend sce-nario is based on the past, current and short-term affore-station plans. The projections exclude the tree covercomponent as reported in 2001 and 2003 by the FSI.
Projections for area under forest cover based oncurrent trend scenario
The forest cover is projected up to 2030, based on thepast and current trends, as reported by the periodic re-
Figure 2.
Cumulative area afforested
during 1951–2005
   1   9   8   7   1   9   8   9   1   9   9   1   1   9   9   3   1   9   9   5   1   9   9   7   1   9   9   9   2   0   0   1   2   0   0   3   2   0   0   5   2   0   0   7   2   0   0   9   2   0   1   1   2   0   1   3   2   0   1   5   2   0   1   7   2   0   1   9   2   0   2   1   2   0   2   3   2   0   2   5   2   0   2   7   2   0   2   9   2   0   3   1   F  o  r  e  s   t  c  o  v  e  r   (   M   h  a   )
Figure 3.
Projected trend in forest cover under the current trend sce-nario
CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 95, NO. 2, 25 JULY 2008218
ports of the FSI. It can be observed from Figure 3 that theforest cover will continue to increase all the way up to2030. The forest cover is projected to reach 72.19 mha by2030, assuming that the current trend scenario will con-tinue.
Projected afforestation rates based on current trends
The long-term average annual rate of afforestation overthe period 1980–2005 is 1.32 mha. Assuming the averagerate
of 1.32 mha for the period 2006–30, the total areathat would be afforested is 33 mha. The cumulative areaafforested would be 70.5 mha by 2030 (Figure 4). Thisincludes short- and long-rotation plantation forestry aswell as natural regeneration. It is important to note thatsome of the afforested area, particularly short-rotationplantations, is likely to be periodically harvested and re-planted or left for coppice regrowth.
Carbon stocks in forests
The forest sector could be a source or a sink of carbon.Forest carbon stock includes biomass and soil carbonpools. Biomass carbon can be further disaggregated intoaboveground and belowground biomass and dead organicmatter. Change in forest carbon stock between two timeperiods is an indicator of the net emissions of CO
fromthe sector. Carbon stocks are estimated and projected forthe period 2005–30.
The COMAP model
is a set of versatile models with theability to analyse the mitigation potential as well as cost-effectiveness of diverse activities such as forest conserva-tion (e.g. Protected Areas and halting forest conversion),
Figure 4.
Projected afforestation under the current trend scenario.
natural regeneration (with no logging) and afforesta-tion/reforestation through plantation forestry, includingshort- as well as long-rotation forestry (with logging or har-vesting).Assessment of mitigation activities using the COMAPmodel would involve consideration of the following:
Land availability for different mitigation activitiesduring different years.
Wood product demand and supply to ensure that socio-economic demands are met with and real additionalmitigation is feasible.
Developing a baseline or current trend scenario to enableestimation of incremental carbon mitigation.
Developing a mitigation scenario incorporating theextent of area to be covered for meeting differentgoals.Data required for assessing different activities: The datarequired for assessing the mitigation potential of affore-station and reforestation include land area-related infor-mation, baseline carbon density (tC/ha) in above-groundvegetation and soil, rotation period, above-ground woodybiomass accumulation rate (tC/ha/yr), soil carbon en-hancement rate (tC/ha/yr), and cost and benefit flows. In-put data were obtained from the literature
.Outputs of the COMAP model: These include mitiga-tion potential estimates per ha and aggregate tonnes of carbon benefit, annual carbon stocks, carbon stocks for agiven year such as 2008 and 2012 and cumulative over aperiod, and cost-effectiveness parameters.
Carbon stock estimates
Estimates for the forest carbon stocks, including biomassand soil carbon from previous studies are given in Figure5. According to an earlier estimate by Richards and Flint
   1   8   8   0   1   9   8   0   1   9   8   6   1   9   8   6   1   9   9   4   2   0   0   5   C  a  r   b  o  n  s   t  o  c   k   (   M   t   C   )
Biomass carbon Soil carbon
Figure 5.
Trends in carbon stock estimates for Indian forests

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