Limited effects of tree planting on forest canopy cover and rural livelihoods in rural India
Globally, several countries have committed to meet their climate change mitigation goals through planting trees. In 2015, there were approximately 280 million hectares of planted forests in the world. These planted forests can support carbon sequestration and enable livelihood security, but researchers have also found that they can have negative impacts on ecosystems and people, with the potential for conflict with other land uses in areas where there are human settlements. In addition, the evidence of carbon capture and livelihood support from these plantations is limited. India has been investing funds in tree plantations for several decades, and has committed to increasing forest and tree cover as a part of the 2015 Paris Climate agreement. The researchers sought to measure the impact of tree plantations on forest canopy cover and livelihoods in the state of Himachal Pradesh in India.
Research goals & methods
The researchers used remote sensing to estimate changes in forest canopy cover over time in 430 plantations and conducted a survey of 2400 households living close to plantations in the district of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh.
Conclusions & takeaways
The authors find that several decades of tree planting have not led to an increase in the extent of forest cover at the study sites. Some households report relying on plantations for fuel, fodder, and grazing, especially if they are close to older and larger plantations which are located near roads. However, of the 42% of respondents who reported using plantations for one of these purposes, most said that their dependence on the plantations was low. Further, an increase in plantations has shifted the species composition at the sites away from the broadleaf species which are favored by local communities. This can also have a negative impact on the livelihoods of local people.
Limited effects of tree planting on forest canopy cover and rural livelihoods in Northern India. Nature Sustainability. 2021. doi:10.1038/s41893-021-00761-z.
- Department of Political Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA