Himalayan oak forests under threat

Forest degradation and climate change behind Uttarakhand floods, say local people

By Ghazala Shahabudin
Published: Thursday 01 August 2013

Forest degradation could be an important trigger for floods and landslides in the Himalayas during heavy rainfall events such as occurred in June 2013. At 1800-2000 m in the Himalayas in the banj oak-pine belt, there is considerable evidence of deterioration in forest quality and extent.

Banj oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) is one of the immensely important species here for both rural livelihoods and for biodiversity, and our research team is attempting to find out why the banj oak forest is declining. According to the locals, spreading extent of pine (Pinus roxburghii) and climate change are the major factors.

Rare bird species such as the wedge-tailed green pigeon, rufous-bellied niltava, greater yellow-naped woodpecker and white-throated laughing thrush require an unbroken canopy, large trees and thick leaf litter to survive, all forest features that are gradually changing. Unfortunately current forest statistics do not take into account deteriorating forest quality; these subtle changes do not attract attention of policy-makers.

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