Authors: Nakul Chettri, Eklabya Sharma, D. C. Deb, and R. C. Sundriyal

Paper Abstract: Forest cover types, tree distribution pattern, species diversity, net woody biomass productivity, and firewood extraction rates were studied along a trekking corridor (Yuksam –Dzongri) in Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve, Sikkim, India. For the last 2 decades the area has been facing immense pressure on its natural resources because of an increase in the numbers of tourists and the lack of effective regulation by park authorities. To assess this situation the study sites were categorized as closed canopy (CC) forest and open canopy (OC) forest (disturbed) at upper forest (UF) and lower forest (LF) sites, on the basis of firewood extraction pressure from the community and tourism enterprises. The results showed significant variations in diversity, richness, structure, productivity, and regeneration among different canopy types. OC forest showed greater plant diversity than CC forest. Firewood extraction pressure was remarkably greater in the LF near the major settlement than in the UF. Local conservation initiatives and the interventions of an ecotourism project have had visible impacts on firewood use by the community and on tourism enterprises. Although alarming, the rate of woody biomass extraction was nonetheless lower than the annual productivity rate of the stands. Participatory management and compliance by tourism enterprises with a code of conduct on alternative fuel use along the trekking corridor would help promote the conservation and maintenance of biodiversity.

Source: Mountain Research and Development Abstracts Volume 22, Number 2, May 2002