TOF are an important resource and play a key role in sustainable forest management. The natural forests are diminishing under pressures of urbanization and other human interferences like encroachment in the forests and agriculture on encroached lands. Planting trees in rural areas as well as in and around human settlements and cities will help increase the forest cover, ease pressures on natural forests, and provide services and goods to meet timber, fuelwood, fodder and non-wood forest product demands. To make these plantings sustainable, careful consideration must be given to their role in overall land-use patterns. Trees are also important in the socio-cultural lives of the people, and are an important resource for the wood-based industries.
This workshop appreciated the importance of TOF and also their various dimensions of utility and methods of estimation. TOF have a lot of implications on SFM and also contribute substantially to the raw material requirements of industries.
The most important users of TOF data are the industries dependent on the tree resources as raw materials. Government departments and the educational institutions that are linked to natural resource management are the major owners of TOF-related information.
Four main constraints for methodologies to assess TOF are cost, time, accuracy and technical knowledge. All the methodologies - remote sensing, ground-based sampling methods, aerial photography and total enumeration - have some drawbacks and are unable to meet all requirements simultaneously.
Some significant conclusions of the workshop are:
1. TOF assessment over a large area is a lengthy exercise and hence involves much technical manpower and financial resources.
2. Therefore, a small-scale assessment methodology should be tested for its accuracy, cost-effectiveness and the length of time required.
3. Secondary data sources provide vital information for the sustainability of TOF.
4. Networking of NGOs in different parts of India would serve as a major source of TOF information.
5. RS techniques alone, though accurate and precise, are not cost effective. The forest cover shows a spatial-temporal variation and hence the precision of the information generated should be linked to its potential use value. If the information is too precise but the costs involved are enormously high, it decreases the prospects of repeat measurements over a short interval.
6. Ground-based methods (mainly sampling methods) are suitable for large area inventory of TOF. Though they involve a lot of manpower, they are cost-effective and can generate information that is useful for the researchers within the permissible error limits. Hence they can be repeated over shorter intervals and are useful in frequent monitoring of the resource.
7. India has no policy for the management of TOF. A small exploratory study would help to initiate the formulation of guidelines to establish such a policy in the country.