Implications of Impacts of Climate Change on Forest Product Flows and Forest Dependent Communities in the Western Ghats, India

Indu K Murthy, Savithri Bhat, Vani Sathyanarayan, Sridhar Patgar, Beerappa M, PR Bhat, DM Bhat, Ranjith Gopalakrishnan, Mathangi Jayaraman, Madhushree Munsi, Ravindranath NH, Khalid MA, Prashant M, Sudha Iyer and Raghuvansh Saxena | May 2014 


The tropical wet evergreen, tropical semi evergreen and moist deciduous forest types are projected to be impacted by climate change. In the Western Ghats region, a biodiversity hotspot, evergreen forests including semi evergreen account for 30 per cent of the forest area and according to climate change impact model projections, nearly a third of these forest types are likely to undergo vegetation type change. Similarly, tropical moist deciduous forests which account for about 28 per cent of the forest area are likely to experience change in about 20 per cent of the area. Thus climate change could adversely impact forest biodiversity and product flow to the forest dependent households and communities in Uttara Kannada district of the Western Ghats. This study analyses the distribution of non-timber forest product yielding tree species through a network of twelve 1-ha permanent plots established in the district. Further, the extent of dependence of communities on forests is ascertained through questionnaire surveys. On an average 21 per cent and 28 per cent of the tree species in evergreen and deciduous forest types, respectively are, non-timber forest product yielding tree species, indicating potential high levels of supply of products to communities. Community dependence on non-timber forest products is significant, and it contributes to Rs.1199 and Rs.3561 per household in the evergreen and deciduous zones, respectively. Given that the bulk of the forest grids in Uttara Kannada district are projected to undergo change, bulk of the species which provide multiple forest products are projected to experience die back and even mortality. Incorporation of climate change projections and impacts in forest planning and management is necessary to enable forest ecosystems to enhance resilience.