Trees for Himalayan Biodiversity
Plantation of 15,000 indigenous tree saplings at schools, monasteries and reserve forest areas in Dalapchand and Aritar Gram Panchayat, East Sikkim situated at 27’11.26.02” N and 88’40.46.87” E.
• To improve wildlife habitats with plantation of indigenous tree species
• To encourage forest-based small-scale industry among local communities
• To encourage direct community participation in conservation action through the plantation
• To increase green canopy and carbon sequester potential of forests with plantation of native species
Sikkim houses one of the most abundant plant diversity in India (Singh & Chauhan 1997). A part of the Himalaya-East Himalaya biogeographic zone, this region harbours a unique composition of different plant communities which is influenced by various factors including rainfall, temperature, humidity and altitude (Biswas 1967). All these rich tree components play an essential role in maintaining forest ecosystem structure and function. Tree biomass is integrally associated with the socio-economic-ecological life profile of a rural community (Dash 1997). Tree diversity is an essential resource base in Sikkim. About 80% of the rural population is dependent on tree diversity for many of the subsistence needs for timber, fuelwood, fodder, animal litter and compost (Singh & Dash 2002). These natural resources of Sikkim are under anthropogenic pressure and tree biomass is under threat due to excessive demand for furniture and other uses (SS Dash & P Singh,2011). A recent report by Sikkim Biodiversity Board mentioned excessive fuel-wood and fodder extraction, increase in human-wildlife conflicts, increased mass tourism in forested areas, an outbreak of weeds and invasive species as significant conservation challenges in Sikkim. Eco-restoration of degraded open forests is one of the strategies proposed by Sumana Bhattacharya, Srinivas Krishnaswamy and C. K. Rao in their paper "Vulnerability of Sikkim to Climate Change and Strategies for Adaptation". The systematic plantation of indigenous tree species addresses escalating climate and geographical disruption by sequestering atmospheric carbon, and will help replenish groundwater and rivers, protect biodiversity and improve the habitat enhancing local livelihoods.
The upper storey vegetation of the identified project locations consists mainly of trees like Castonopsis spp., Machilus spp., Rhododendron spp., Michelia spp. Species such as Eurya spp., Viburnum spp., Litsea spp., Bucklandia spp., among other associates are dominant in the under-storey.
Species selected for plantation include flowering plants like Gurash (Rhododendron sp.), Phalado (Erythrina indica) non-flowering plants like Dhuppi (Dwarf Dhuppi), fruiting plants like Naspati (Pear), Arucha (Plum), Jackfruit , Guava, Mango, Timber plants like Chandan (Daphnephyllum sp.) , Kapasey (Acer sp.), Uttish (Alnus nepalensis .), Arupatey (Prunus nepalensis ), Kaijal (Bischofia javanica ), Chekrashey (Symingtoria sp.), Kimbu (Morus laevigata ), Lakuri and Gogun ( Sauravia nepalensis ).
Recorded faunal species from the area include the Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), Golden Jackal (Canis aureus), Common Leopard (Panthera pardus), Asiatic Black Bear (Selenarctos himalayanus), Himalayan Palm Civet (Paguma larvata), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) and Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjac).
This project will facilitate the conversion of degraded land into primary forests with indigenous tree plantation. The replacement of unwanted weeds and invasive species with valued native trees will improve the overall ecosystem of the identified area, also upgrade the habitat for wildlife with increased trees, fruits and fodder and shelter. The trees will act as a bio-fence to restrict animal movement outside forests to check crop-depredation in farmlands safeguarding the local economy. This project will help participatory conservation action in the villages through the plantation. About 1,000 workdays of employment will be generated for locals through nursery raising, plantation and monitoring. The direct involvement for about 100 households implementing the plantation programme itself will boost community participation and enthusiasm for the project. The 15,000 trees will absorb approximately 300,000 kgs of atmospheric carbon annually when mature.