Climate Change and its Impacts on Forests of Sikkim

N.H.Ravindranath, Nitasha Sharma, Anitha Sagadevan, Mathangi Jayaraman, Madhushree Munsi  


Climate change is one of the major environmental threats facing the world. Studies have shown that Indian sub-continent is likely to experience a warming of over 3-5°C, increased flood and drought frequency and intensity. Forests provide a wide range of ecosystem services. However, climate is one of the most important determinants of vegetation patterns globally and thus climate change can significantly alter the distribution, structure and ecology of forests. Forest type distribution, carbon stocks or emissions and climate change are interlinked processes. Deforestation and land degradation contributes to about 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions and forest sector provides a large opportunity to mitigate climate change, particularly through the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) mechanism. This chapter presents an assessment of climate variability and climate change impacts on forest ecosystems of Sikkim using dynamic global vegetation modeling. Climatic variables like precipitation and temperature were taken into consideration to understand the past and current trends. The drought and flood data were also assessed to understand the recent trends. The study shows that the forest sector in Sikkim is unlikely to be adversely impacted by climate change in the short- and medium-term. But keeping in mind the various model limitations, there is a need for multiple climate scenarios and vegetation model-based assessment of climate change impacts at decentralised levels. Critical evaluation of the current national as well as state policies, programmes and capacity of institutions are required that will help in increasing resilience of forests.