Climate has significant influence on the distribution, structure and ecology of forests. The change in climate is probably the most important determinant of vegetation patterns and assumes that the change would alter the configuration of forest ecosystems. According to the IPCC report, survival of forests has the potential to mitigate approximately 15% of the world’s Green house gases. The Kyoto protocol specifically mentioned that afforestation and reforestation of forests can be used in reducing the carbon dioxide level from the atmosphere. Forests play an integral part in the carbon cycle, support livelihoods, regulate ecosystems and protect biological diversity.
Forests are the lungs of our ecosystem
The net increase of 263 sq km in forest area of Manipur, as per India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017, is a good sign of conservation and plantation activities as well as re-growth in shifting cultivation areas. Out of the total 17,346 sq km forest area, 908 sq km is under very dense forest, 6510 sq km under moderately dense forest and 9928 sq km under open forest (ISFR, 2017). Majority of the forests including the dense forests is found in the hill districts of Chandel, Churachandpur, Senapati, Tamenglong and Ukhrul. The four valley districts viz. Bishnupur, Imphal East, Imphal West and Thoubal, with a high population density share a small area of the state total forest cover which is mostly denuded or open forests. Different types of forests (Wet Temperate Forests, Pine Forests, Wet Hill Forests, Semi Evergreen Forests, Teak-Gurjan Forests, Bamboo Brakes and Grass Brakes) are distributed in Manipur. Besides, availability of Temperate and Sub Tropical climate in the state marks the forests rich in floral and faunal diversity.
Now a days, the State forests is subjected to multiple stresses, including over extraction, fuel wood collection, livestock grazing, forest fires, and other anthropogenic pressures. Changing the forested areas to human use (agriculture, pasture lands, building land and so forth) usually alter the configuration of natural ecosystems. The practices of shifting (Jhum) cultivation in the hilly areas is another factors resulting in soil erosion, destabilization of the ecology of the given region and deforestation. The Wasteland Report of Manipur of 2010 (IIRS) records 7027.47 sq km of wasteland (31.48% of the TGA), of which, an estimated 90% of the wasteland area falls under degraded forest category (66% under land with scrub, 22% under land with degraded forest and 12% under slash and burn cultivation of the state).
Jhum cultivation has become a major concern for the
degradation of forest in the hills of Manipur
Rapid occurrence of forest fire contributes the loss of biodiversity having direct impact on the livelihood of forest dependent communities. Similarly, encroachment is another factor for the loss of forest area in the state. The extent of encroachment in forests (Annual Administrative Report, 2010-11), Forest Department, is 1,844.63 ha. Tamenglong district under Western Forest Division has the maximum area under encroachment (816 ha) followed by Yangoupokpi Lokchao Wildlife Sanctuary (305 ha) under Northern Forest Division, Kangpokpi (292.75 ha), Central Forest Division, Imphal (168.96), Thoubal Forest Division (130.73), Tengnoupal Forest Division, Chandel (82.00 ha) and Southern Forest Division, Churachandpur (49.19 ha).
When forests are felled down for commercial timber, agriculture, or livestock grazing, the amount of carbon dioxide absorb by trees are reduced. Deforestation accounts for nearly 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the world’s entire transport sector. Scientific studies also revealed that between 12-17% of all the carbon dioxide sent into the atmosphere by human activities comes from the destruction of forests. Therefore, in order to take the advantage of forest preservation, a long term management of forest resources depends on the local people’s support. It is believed that the goal of reducing carbon sources and increasing the carbon sink can be achieved efficiently by protecting and conserving the carbon pools in existing forests. Plantation of urban forests and green areas also enhances sustainable development by their multiple functions; improving environment through reduction of pollution, providing livelihood to the urban poor through forest products and enhancing the quality of urban life providing places for meetings and learning. With new technology and methods, the improvement and replacement approaches for shifting cultivation must be adopted. An attempt must be made to enhance traditional skills and practices for improving the productivity and checking soil erosion in shifting cultivation areas.
Green India Mission (GIM), Compensatory Afforestation fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) have been developed and implemented in Manipur to enhance the resilience of forests to climate change.