From 1994 to 2016, the density of Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii) decreased by nearly 72 per cent in nine forest compartments in which it was the dominant species in the forests of Chamba, according to a study published by the State Centre on Climate Change. Three other important species, including Deodar (Cedrus deodara), Ban Oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) and Kharsu Oak (Quercus semicarpifolia), also witnessed a decline in density in their sample areas during this period, found the study which assessed more than 3,500 hectares of forests in the Chamba forest division.
“The general reason behind this change is that these are the most important species from the point of view of consumption and, therefore, the people, stakeholders and communities are directly dependent on them for timber wood, fuel wood, fodder and other forest products,” said the report titled ‘Temporal Change in Tree Species Composition in Chamba Forest Division of Chamba Circle, Himachal Pradesh’.
On the other hand, the study found that the density of ‘Other Broad Leaved’ tree species such as shisham, maple and walnut greatly increased from 78.2 individuals per hectare to 115.8 ind/ha in the assessed area of about 840 hectares – an increase of 48 per cent. Two other species, kail (Pinus wallichiana) and spruce (Picea smithiana), also recorded an increase in density in three and five forest compartments respectively, covering a total area of about 556 hectares.
The study was undertaken by principal scientific officer Dr SS Randhawa, Harish Bharti, Kiran Lata and Aditi Panatu who consulted the forest department’s working plans and compartment history files related to the Masrund, Tikri, Lower Chamba and Upper Chamba forest ranges. They identified six pure tree communities (having one dominant species) and eight mixed communities in 60 forest compartments of the division spread over 3,509 hectares (A forest compartment is a section of the forest with homogeneous growth conditions and tree species).
Key biodiversity areas in the Chamba forest circle include the Gamgul Siahbehi Wildlife Sanctuary, Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary, Sechu Tuan Nala Wildlife Sanctuary, Tundah Wildlife Sanctuary and the Kalatop Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary.
The study found that in its tree communities where it’s the dominant species, the density of Chir Pine decreased from 712 ind/ha to 200.4 Ind/ha in an area of around 383 hectares. Chir is the principal resin-producing pine and its timber is used for building, general carpentry, and in common furniture and boxes. It occupies elevations ranging from 900 to 1,800 metres and is found on an extremely wide range of rocks in hilly topography.
The study said that forest resources in the state are currently experiencing greater stress with increasing pressure from burgeoning population and rising impact of anthropogenic activities. “The decrease rate is slow but there is a great need to conserve all these species in the forests so that we can ensure its availability during the present and future generations,” it said.
Two-thirds of Himachal Pradesh’s total area of 55,673 square kilometres comes under recorded forest area, and the state has diverse natural ecosystems comprising 8 forest types and 38 sub-types which are home to 3,295 plant species.
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