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4 Forest Resources

This chapter provides information on the physiographic classification, land use and forest resources of Nepal. The chapter also indicates the direction of change in the amount of forest cover and also deals with the deforestation. This information on the nature and extent of change in forest cover provides the basis for a dialogue on forest policy.

4.1 General

The National Forest Inventory (NFI, 1989-1996) indicates that forests (including Protected Areas) cover about 4,268,798 ha, (about 29% of the total land area) and shrubs cover 1,559, 209 ha (about 10.6% of the total land area) totaling to a woody vegetation cover of 5,828,007 ha (about 39.6% of the total land area). Protected Areas occupy about 2,437,000 ha (about 16.6% of total land area) but have forests cover on only 29% of their area (FSCN, 1999). The NFI also indicates that since 1978 forest cover has declined at a rate of 1.7 percent per annum and the total woody vegetation (forest and shrub) cover has decreased at an average annual rate of about 0.5%.

4.2 Land Use

The Land Resource Mapping Project (LRMP, 1986) is the only source that provides a holistic picture of land use in Nepal (Appendix, Table 6). The LRMP slightly overestimates the total land area at 147 490 km2 (CES, 1998) against the accepted area of 147,181 km2. (SYBN, 1999). It indicates that the main land use is "forest and shrubs". Fig. 5 incorporates information from the NFI, LRMP and other official sources to show the status of land use over the last four decades. It includes the area of "shrub" vegetation under "other land uses". It indicates that the forest cover has declined over time while the area under cultivation and "other land uses" has increased.

Fig. 5 Land use over time

About 86% of the total area of Nepal (Appendix, Table 7) is in fragile hill eco-systems (High Mountains, High Hills, Mid Hills, and Shiwaliks), which need eco-sensitive planning and management. Appendix Table 8 provides land use information using the boundaries of the development regions for possible linkage to development activities.

4.3 Forests

Different researchers (Turnil, 1954; Stearn, 1960; Stainton, 1972; and Dobremez, 1972) have classified the vegetation of Nepal differently. Dobremez et al (1972) have identified 118 ecosystems and classify Nepal into 4 domains and 11 sub-levels and provide following six vegetation categories based on an altitudinal classification (bio-climatic zones).

The following sections provide a brief description of vegetation in each of these zones.

4.3.1 Tropical Zone (below 1 000 m)

The forests in this zone are located in the Terai and the Shiwalik (Churia) hills. Broadleaved forests dominate this zone except for some coniferous forests (Pinus roxburgii) on southern aspects in the upper regions. This zone accounts for a total of 1,829 species of flowering plants and about 81 species of Pteridophytes (BPP, 1995).

The Terai covers about 14% of Nepal's area and there are significant differences in the flora of the western and eastern parts due to difference in climate, rainfall and soil type. Eastern Nepal is characterized by the presence of Cycas pectinata, Gnetum montanum, Calamus spp., Cythea spinulosa, Pandanus nepalenses and permanent grasslands locally known as Phanta, while the western Nepal vegetation is characterized by the presence of Pinus roxburghii.

The Shiwalik range (Churia hills) occupies about 13% of the total land area of the country. Typical vegetation in this region includes Cycas pectinata, Gnetum montanum, Duabanga grandiflora, Calamus spp., Cythea pinulosa, Pandanus nepalensis, and Podocarpus neriifolius.

Shorea robusta (sal) dominates the whole of the Terai region. It is accompanied by Adina cordifolia, Aegle marmelos, Albizia spp., Anthocephalus chinensis, Anogeissus latifolia, Butea frondosa, Dillenia pentagyna, Dillenia indica, etc.

Wherever sal is absent or less prevalent Lagerstroemia parviflora, Garuga pinnata, Mitragyna parvifolia, Schleichera oleosa, Terminalia bellerica, Terminalia chebula, Terminalia alata, etc. form forests along with Holarrhena pubescens and Mallotus philippensis. In the riverine areas these species are replaced by Acacia catechu, Dalbergia sissoo, Dalbergia latifolia, Syzygium jambos, Eugenia operculata, etc.

Some of the other common trees of this tropical zone are Albizzia procera, Alstonia scholaris, Bombax ceiba, Bridelia retusa, Callicarpa arborea, Cassia fistula, Casearia graveolens, Dillenia indica, Ficus spp., Kydia calicyna Lannea coromandalica, Macaranga denticulata, Oroxylum indicum, and Semicarpus anacardium.

4.3.2 Subtropical Zone (1,000 to 2,000 m)

This zone covers the central belt that lies north of the Shiwaliks and is composed of a network of ridges. The subtropical forest consists of species such as Schima wallichii, Castanopsis indica,and Castenopsis tribuloides on relatively humid areas while Pinus roxburghii forms forests in drier regions. Conifer forests are dominated by species like Tsuga dumosa (thingre salla), Pinus roxburghii (ranisalla) and Pinus wallichiana (gobre salla) with patches of . Quercus spp, and Rhododendron spp. . This zone consists of more than 1,945 flowering plant species.

Some common forest types in this region include Castanopsis tribuloirdes mixed with Schima wallichi, Rhododendron spp., Lyonia ovalifolia, Eurya acuminata, and Quercus glauca; Castanopsis-Laurales forest with Symplocas spp.; Alnus nepalensis forests; Schima wallichii-Castanopsis indica hygrophile forest; Schima-Pinus forest; Pinus roxburghii forests with Phyllanthus emblica. Semicarpus anacardium, Rhododendron arboreum and Lyoma ovalifolia; Schima-Lagestromea parviflora forest, Quercus lamellosa forest with Quercus lenata and Quercus glauca; Castononpsis forests with C. hystrix and Lauraceae; mesohygophile forests with Quercus galuca and Quercus lanata.

Associations of Lauraceous species are common in broadleaved forests; for example, Litsea spp., Enlistee cupola, Persia odoratissima, Persea duthiei, etc., along with such others as Engelhardtia spicata, Rhododendron arboreum, Lyonia ovalifolia, Pyrus pashia, Rhus spp., Acer oblongum, myrica esculenta, Michelia kisopa, and Betula alnoides.

Some other common trees and large shrub species of subtropical forests are Semicarpus anacardium, Cretaeava unilocularis, Trewia nudiflora, Premna interrupta, Ulmus lancifolia, Ulmus chumlia, Glochidium velutinum, Callicarpa arborea, Toona ciliata, Ficus spp., Mahosama similicifolia, Trevesia palmate, Xylosma longifolium, Boehmeria rugulosa, Scheffera venulosa, Michelia spp., Casearia graveilens, Rhus wallichii, Actinodaphne reticulata, Sapimum insegne, Alns nepalensis, Ardisia thyrsiflora, Ilex spp, Macaranga pustulata, Trichilia cannoroides, Celtis tetranda, Wenlendia puberula, Saurauia nepalensis, Ligustrum confusum, Quercus glauca, Zizyphus incurva, Camellia kissi, Hymenodictyon flaccidum, Maytenus thomsonii, Zanthoxylum armatum, Rhus succednea, Eurya acuminata, Myrsine semiserrata, Slonea tomentosa, Hydrangea asper, Symplocus spp., Cleyrea spp. and Quercus lamellose.

4.3.3 Temperate zone (2,000 to 3,000 m)

This zone supports broadleaved evergreen forest dominated by plants such as Quercus lamillosa and Q. semicarpifolia in pure or mixed stands. Species such as Lindera and Litsea. Tseuga dumosa and Rhododendron spp. are also present in the upper levels of this zone. Other important species are Magnolia campbellii, Michelia doltsopa, Pieris ovalifolia, Daphnephyllum himalayanse, Acer campbellii, A. pectinatum, and Sorbus cuspidata but these species do not extend toward the west beyond central Nepal. Alnus nepalensis, a pioneer tree species, grows gregariously and forms pure patches of forests on newly exposed slopes, gullies, moist places and on riversides.

The common forest types of this zone include Rododendraon arboreum, Rohododendron barbatum, Lyonia spp., Pieris Formosa; Tsuga dumosa forest with such deciduous species as Acer and Magnolia; deciduous mixed broadleaved forest of Acer campbellii, Acer pectinatum, Sorbus cuspidata, and Magnolia campbellii; mixed broadleaved forest of Rhododendron arboreum, Acer campbellii, Symplocos ramosissima and Lauraceae.

This zone is habitat for many other important tree and large shrub species such as Abies pindrow, Betula utilis, Buxus rugulosa, Benthamidia capitata, Corylus ferox, Deutzia staminea, Euonymus tingens, Abies spectalbilis, Acanthopanax cissifolius, Acer campbellii, Acer pectinatum, Betula alnoides, Coriaria terminalis, Fraxinus macrantha, Dodecadenia grandiflora, Eurya cerasifolia, Hydrangea heteromala, Ilex dipyrena, Ligrestum spp., Litsea elongata, Juglans regia, Lichelia doltsopa, Myrsine capitallata Neolitsea umbrosa, Philadelphus tomentosus, Osmanthus fragrans, Prunus cornuta, Rhododendron companulatum, Sorbus cuspidate, and Vibernum continifolium.

4.3.4 Sub alpine zone (3,000 to 4,000 m)

The sub alpine zone covers about 43% of the land but accommodates only 6% of Nepal's population. This zone supports forest vegetation up to the tree line with more than 1,400 unique flowering plants. The number of unique plants are unique is increasing with identification of more species. Further, 177 out of a total of 246 endemic plants in Nepal belong to this zone. Many medicinal species such as Aconites, Allium, Bergenia, Ephedra, Daphne, Betula, Paris, Picrorhiza, Swertia and Taxus that are important to the rural society and economy of Nepal are found in this zone and used by local people.

The Betula-Rhododendron campanulatum and Abies spectabilis forest represents the vegetation of this zone. Rhododendron spp. forms a mixed forest within Abies or Betula forest or occurs as open shrub. Some important trees and shrub species of this zone include Sorbus cuspidata, Euonymus tingens, Ribis glaciale, Acer pectinatum. Salix spp., Lyonia spp., Prunus rufa, Acer candatum, Acanthopanax cessifloia, Sorbus microphylla, and Berberis spp. The Juniperus spp. occurs in the drier forest areas of this zone.

4.3.5 Alpine zone (4,000-5,000 m)

The alpine forest is characterized by the presence of various stunted bushy shrubs. The main species are Rhododendron setosum, R. anthopogon, R. lepidotum, Potentilla fruiticosa, Ephedra gerardiana, Berberis spp. and Cotoneaster accuminata. In river valleys Hippophae spp. and Salix spp. along with Saxifraga, Arenaria and Androsace species and alpine grasses are found. Some common and important herbs of this zone include Primula spp., Gentiana spp., Corydalis spp. and Saussurea spp.

4.3.6 Nival (above 5,000 m)

This zone consists of permanent snowfields, rocks, glaciers and ice on the high Himalayan ranges in the north. The area lies under permanent snow and is mostly without vegetation except for some Lichens on exposed rocky places and few flowering plants such as Stellaria decumbens. This zone also supports species like Androsace, Sassurea, Primula, and Arenaria that complete their life cycle within three to four months during the rainy season.

4.4 Forest area

The National Forest Inventory (NFI, 1999) indicates that about 39.6 percent of the total land area of Nepal is covered by some form of woody vegetation (forests or shrub). This includes protected areas, which are spread over 16.6 percent of total area of Nepal and have woody vegetation over 29 percent of their area (Appendix, Table 9). Fig. 6 presents woody cover in each of the five development regions (Appendix, Table 10).

Fig. 6 Vegetation cover by development region

There is significant variation in total vegetation cover among different development regions. For example, the Far Eastern development region has maximum woody vegetation cover (forest 35.2% and shrub 13.5%) and the Western development region has the least woody vegetation cover (forest 25.0% and shrub 8.7%).

4.5 Accessible forests

About 51.5 percent of the forest areas in Nepal are accessible (Appendix, Table 10 ). The National Forest Inventory (NFI, 1999) classifies a forest as inaccessible, if it is located on a slope steeper than 45 degrees, has some physical obstacles or is inside a protected area. Fig 7 provides area of accessible forest by altitude classes.

Fig. 7. Accessible forest by altitude classes

The Eastern development region has the maximum area (576,300 ha) of accessible forest and the Western development region has the least (262, 100 ha). The Far Western development region has the greatest per-hectare growing stock (200 m3 per ha) of accessible forests, while the Mid Western region has the least (157 m3 per ha) (Appendix, Table 10).

4.6 Changes in forest cover

The National Forest Inventory (NFI, 1999) indicates that the total woody vegetation (forest and shrub) cover in Nepal has declined from 42.7 percent in 1978-79 to 39.6 percent in 1994 (Appendix, Table 11). The NFI for the 76 districts of Nepal has been developed on the basis of Landsat TM satellite imagery for 14 Terai districts, aerial photo- interpretation information for 51 Hill districts, and inventory information for 10 districts). Figure 8 indicates that while the forest cover has declined by 24.0% shrub cover has increased by 126 percent during this period (Appendix Table 12). The national annual rate of change (deforestation) of forest alone is about 1.7 percent.

Fig. 8. Change in forest and shrub cover

Fig. 9. Change in forest and shrub cover by development region

At the regional level, the Far Western region has suffered maximum loss of forest cover (30.5%) and the Mid Western region has gained maximum shrub cover (471.8%). About 8.5 percent of the loss in forest cover has not been compensated for by a corresponding increase in area under shrub cover. This percentage loss is largest in the Central region (15.9%) and least (4.45%) in the Eastern region (Fig. 9). Table 13 at Appendix, presents region-wise change in the total vegetation cover.

4.7 Change in growing stock over time

The last national forest inventory (NFI, 1999) was done during 1989 to 1996 with reference year of 1994. Prior to this study, only one full forest inventory was done, in 1960. The 1960 inventory focused on only commercial forests covering about 2.7 million hectares of forest area while the total forest area was 5.2 million hectares. Similarly, the most recent national forest inventory covers only accessible forests covering 2.18 million hectares while the total forest area is 4.3 million hectares.

Fig. 10 Growing stock (Volume per ha) in Nepal and its regions in 1960 and 1994

The NFI indicates (Fig. 10) that growing stock (volume per hectare) has increased (Appendix, Table 14) across all the development regions, varying from about twenty eight percent (MWDR) to about sixty percent (FWDR). Fig 11 presents changes in the stem density.

Fig. 11. Stems per hectare in 1960 and 1994 inventory

At the national level a comparison of stem density of the 1960 and 1994 inventories indicates an increase in density in all diameter classes. The largest increase (160%) is seen in the 10 to 20 cm diameter class while least increase (62%) was in the 20 to 50 cm diameter class. The overall increase in density was 127 percent (Appendix, Table 15). However, enough information is not available to comment on how much this increase is due to inclusion of additional species in the latest NFI.

4.8 Deforestation and degradation

During the last national forest inventory, a study examined deforestation in the Terai zone at the district level and concluded that the absolute figure of deforestation over the reference period was highest in Kailali (16,000 ha). The only districts where the forest area appears to have increased were Dhanusha (600 ha) and Siraha (200 ha.). The total forest area in the Terai zone was 1.4 million hectares with an annual deforestation rate of about 1.3 percent as against the previous rate of 3.9 percent according to the Master Plan for the Forestry Sector of Nepal for the period 1978-1979 to 1985-1986. Apart from deforestation, land degradation is a serious problem in Nepal. There is lot soil erosion, particularly in the Kathmandu valley and the Mahabharat Lekh area (Appendix, Table 16).

4.9 Plantations

Until the early 1980s plantation activity was mostly on government forest lands rather than private or community lands. From the mid 1980s onward the situation has changed and plantation activity is now many times more on common on community and private lands than on government lands.

This increase in tree planting, particularly by individuals and communities, demonstrates positive a commitment toward restoration of degraded lands and forests (Appendix, Table 17) and indicates a trend toward potential long-term sustainability.

4.10 Biodiversity

Globally, Nepal ranks twenty-fifth in biodiversity with about 118 ecosystems, 75 vegetation types and 35 forest types. There are over 5,100 species of flowering plants, over 1,600 species of fungi and over 460 species of lichen (Appendix, Table 18). Out of the 5,100 species about 370 species of flowering plants are considered endemic to Nepal and about 700 species are known to possess medicinal properties. Protected Areas alone contain 191 endemic species (Appendix, Table 19). Anthropogenic disturbance has led to inclusion of 61 species on the list of threatened species for Nepal (Appendix, Table 20).

Nepal has a large number of fruit-producing plants. Citrus is the major fruit crop of Nepal. Varieties of citrus commercially grown in Nepal are derived local germplasm. Mango, guava, litchi, jackfruit, pomegranate, orange, banana and apple are the main fruits grown in the country. The Plant Genetic Profiles Study (1995) listed 96 indigenous fruits. The study indicatesd that 42 main fruits and nearly 195 varieties are grown in Nepal. The study indicates that 14 fruits (wild pear (mayal), sand pear (chiniya naspati), quince (Nepali syau), darim, dakh, persimmon (haluwabed), peach (aru), plums (arubakhara), citron (bimiro), sweet lime (chaksi), fortunella (muntala), lapsi, thin shelled walnut (dante-okhar) and castanea (deshi-katus)) are genetically threatened. About twenty-one government and private horticulture farms collect and maintain fruit germplasm. These farms currently maintain about 618 varieties of fruit.

Nepal also has an estimated 700 species with medicinal properties and about 571 species have already been confirmed as medicinal plants. Out of these species about 30 percent are trees, 25 percent shrubs, 32 percent herbs, 10 percent climbers and 3 percent other. However, documented information about the utility, collection, drying and storage of medicinal plants is available only for 97 species.

Faunal diversity is equally impressive with about 175 mammal species, 836 bird species, 147 reptile and amphibian species, 180 species of fish, 640 species of butterflies, and over 6 000 species of moths. Of these, 26 mammals, nine birds, and three reptiles are endangered, vulnerable, or threatened. For example, gharial (Gharialis gangeticus), Bengal florican (Eupodotis bengalensis), florican (Sypheotides indica), Gangetic dolphin (Platanista gangetica), hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus), red panda (Ailurus fulgens), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), snow leopard (Panthera unicia), tiger (Panthera tigris), Asian elephant (Elephas meximus), one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), barasingha or swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli), and wild buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) are threatened species in Nepal (CES, 1998).

Nepal supports a large number livestock (domestic animal) species. The spatial distribution of the different species varies with environmental conditions, socio-economic constraints and the capacity of the land to produce feed. Cattle are predominant in the lower hills and Terai, while buffalo are more common in the Middle Mountains of the central and western regions. Goats are concentrated in the eastern and central hills and sheep are predominant in the western hill and mountains. Variation in domestic cattle species by altitude is quite significant. For example, in the mountains and the hills region the main cattle species and varieties include kirko, cholung (Bos indicus), achham zebu, black zebu, siri, and kachcha siri. In the central terai region the common species of cattle are hariana (Bos indicus) and bachaur (Bos indicus). Cattle like kherigarh zebu and ponwar zebu predominate in the southern part of Terai. Similar variations can be observed in the case of sheep and goats. Local people use wild genetic resources to improve established domesticates. For instance, in the high mountain areas the semi-wild yak (Bos grunniens) is regularly bred with domestic cows to produce the hybrid chaunri, a good milk producer.

4.11 Conservation of biodiversity

Biodiversity is ingrained in the culture of Nepal. Various legislations like The National Park and Wild Life Conservation Act (NPWCA) of 1973 and network of Protected Areas provide institutional support to biodiversity conservation in Nepal. All protected areas have management plans and clearly delineate their core and buffer areas. The management of buffer zones is more people centered and community based than that of the core areas. Two of the eight national parks (Royal Chitwan and Sagarmatha National Parks) are World Heritage sites. The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve has wetlands of international importance, especially for migratory waterfowl, and is listed under the Ramasar Convention.

4.12 Protected areas

The number and the extent of protected areas is continually increasing. There are currently 17 protected areas (8 national parks, 4 conservation areas, 4 wildlife reserves, and a hunting reserve) covering about 16.6 percent of the total surface area of the country (Appendix, Table 21 at Annex). The area of protected areas may even exceed twenty five percent with the inclusion of existing and proposed buffer zones. Table 21 of the Appendix indicates forest and shrub cover, Table 22 the different physiographic zones and Table 23 the different natural ecosystems in these 17 protected areas. Following provides a brief description on protected areas.

Sagarmatha National Park (SNP)

The Sagarmatha National Park was established in 1976 and covers an area of 1,148 km2 in the Himalayan ecological zone. Since 1979, it has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site . Mount Everest (Sagarmatha), at 8,848, is the crowning glory of the park. Some other famous peaks in the park that are above 6,000 m include Lhotse, Cho-Oyu, Thamserku, Nuptse, Amadablam and Pumori. The park has many glaciers, some of them 2 to 3 km long and can be seen at the head of the Khumbu Valley.

The tree line is at about 4,500 m. Forested areas above 3,500 m are dominated by silver fir, birch, rhododendron and junipers. Below 3,500 m the forest is mainly comprised of pine and hemlock. Himalayan thar and musk deer are the main large mammals. Other animals include Himalayan black bear, common langur, jackal, marten and Himalayan mouse hare. More than 118 species of birds have been identified in the park, including common ones like blood pheasant, red-billed chough and yellow-billed chough.

About 3,500 Sherpa reside within the park. The traditional economy of the Sherpa community depends on agriculture, livestock and trade with Tibet but is becoming increasingly dependent on tourism.

Langtang National Park (LNP)

Langtang National Park extends over an area of about 1,710 km2. and was established in 1976. It falls in the high Himalaya and high mountain geo-physiographic zones. There are number of peaks with elevations of more than 6,500 m, including Langtang, Lirung, Dorijee Lagpa and Phubichya.

The park broadly supports six forest types (chir pine forest; oak forest; fir, spruce, deodar and blue pine forest; moist mixed temperate forest; sub-alpine forest; and moist alpine forests). The flora mainly consists of oaks, chir pine, maple, fir, blue pine, hemlock, spruce and rhododendron. The park provides habitat for wild dog, red panda, pika, muntjac, musk deer, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan thar, ghoral, serow, rhesus monkey and common langur.

Royal Chitwan National Park (RCNP)

Royal Chitwan National Park, the oldest national park in Nepal, was established in 1973 and extends over about 932 km2. Prior to the 1950s it was a royal hunting reserve. The first conservation efforts in the area date back to 1962 when a part of this park was declared a rhino sanctuary. The park lies in a valley formed by Siwalik hills and the lower Himalayas. Three rivers (the Narayani, Reu and Rapti) flow through the park and provide marshes and swamps for rhino and elephant.

The park contains dense tropical moist deciduous forests of three subtypes. The first is a narrow belt of pine forest on the tops of the Shiwalik ridges. Second is riverine forests and grasslands in the flood plains of the rivers. The third is sal forests, covering about three quarter of the park. The park supports a wide variety of birds and animals. It is famous as the western-most habitat of single-horned rhinoceros. The park supports elephant, deer, tiger, leopard, boar, langur, monkey, wild dog, hyena, spotted linglang and ratel. Many local and migratory birds such as peafowl, open bill stork, pied kingfisher, golden-backed woodpecker, black-headed oriole, giant hornbill, black-necked stork, etc., can be easily observed in the park.

Shey Phoksundo National Park (SPNP)

Shey Phoksundo National Park was established in 1984 with an area of 3,555 km2. The park falls in the high Himalayan geo-physio-graphic zone. It supports a variety of tree species including blue pine, spruce, cypress, poplar, deodar, fir, birch, and oaks. The main fauna include snow leopard, blue sheep, ghoral, Himalayan thar, serow, wolf, leopard, jackal, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan mouse hare, Himalayan weasel, yellow throated marten, langur and rhesus monkeys.

Rara National Park (RNP)

This is a small park covering about 106 km2 and lies mostly in the Mugu district north-west of Kathmandu. A small part of the park falls in the Jumla district. The Rara Lake and River, covering an area of 10 km2, are the unique feature of this park. The highest peak in the park is Chuchemara with an elevation of 4,000 m.

The forest mainly consists of blue pine, chir pine, deodar, fir, spruce, oak and rhododendron species. The park supports a wide variety of animals including leopard, black bear, musk deer, goral, serow, bharel and wolf. The bird species include snow cock, pheasants, monal and chukor. Snow trout is the only fish species recorded in the lake.

Royal Bardia National Park (RBNP)

The Royal Bardia National Park was developed into a national park in 1988. The park is one of the largest (968 km2) park with best wilderness areas in Nepal. It is situated along the Karnali River in the mid-west Terai region toward the southern side of the Churia Hills.

The park supports sal forests, riverine forests, grasslands, swamps and marshes. About 70 percent of the park consists of sal forests and remaining 30% supports riverine grassland, open phanta, semal savannah, harwood and khair-sisoo forests. The park provides habitat for tiger, leopard, elephant, wild buffalo, swamp deer, spotted dear, sambhar and wild boar. Major aquatic species include Gangetic dolphin, gharial, crocodile, otter and mahaser fish. More than 35 species of mammals, over 260 species of birds, 60 species of fish and 25 species of reptiles have already been identified in the in the park.

Makalu Barun National Park (MBNP)

The Makalu Barun National Park has an area of 1,500 km2 and belongs to the high Himalayan and high mountain geo-physiographic zone. It was established in 1992 and derives its name from Mt. Makalu (8,463 m) and the Barun River. Other major rivers flowing through the park include the Saldimas, Kasuwa, Isuwa, Apsuwa, Sanhuwa, Hongu and Inkhu. The park falls in tropical to Nival bio-climatic zone.

The vegetation of the park consists of such species as rhododendron, juniper, fir, birch, oak, chestnut, pine, aromatic herbs and wildflowers. The park supports a large variety of fauna including clouded leopard, forest leopard, jungle cat, grey wolf, Himalayan black bear, red panda, musk deer, barking deer, wild goat, and wild boars. About 440 bird species, 30 reptile species, and 15 amphibian species have been identified.

Khaptad National Park (KNP)

The Khaptad National Park covers an area of 225 km2 and was established in 1986. It is in the far western development region and the middle mountain physiographic zone. The park is located where the borders of the Bajura, Doti and Achhlam Districts meet.

The vegetation types range from sub-tropical forests at the lower altitudes to temperate grasslands intermixed with oak and coniferous forests on the Khaptad Plateau. Common species are chir pine, spruce, fir, maple, birch, alder, rhododendron and bamboo. The park supports fauna such as leopard, Himalayan yellow throated marten, black beer, wild dog, wild boar, jackal, musk deer, ghoral, wolf and langur. The common bird species include impeyan pheasant, chukor partridge, kalij pheasant and monal.

Makalu Barun Conservation Area (MBCA)

The Makalu Barun Conservation Area was established as a conservation area in 1993 and serves as a buffer zone to Makalu Baraun National Park. It is spread over an area of 830 km2. The area supports a human population of about 32,000 representing Rais, Sherpas and Shingsawas (Bhotes) tribes who are mostly dependent on agriculture, forests, animal husbandry and seasonal migratory labour jobs.

Kanchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA)

The Kanchenjunga Conservation Area was established in 1997 over an area of 2 035 km2. (SYBN, 1999). It contains part of the second highest mountain (Kanchenjunga) in the world. Nepal, India and Tibet share Kanchenjunga. In India it is protected though Kangchendzonga National Park and in Tibet by Qomolongma Nature preserve.

Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA)

The Annapurna Conservation Area Project, a globally recognized conservation initiative, was developed and managed by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation. The area has evolved from an integrated conservation development project in 1986 to the status of a protected area in 1992 and has an area of 7,629 km2. The ACA contains many villages that are organized into fifty five village development committee and fall in the districts of Kaski, Myagdi, Lamjung, Manang, and Mustang.

Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA)

The Manaslu Conservation Area, covering 1,663 km2 was established in 1998. The area is located in north Gorkha district and encompasses seven village development committees (Samagaun, Lho, Prok, Bihi, Chunchet, Chhekampar and Sirdibas). It derives its name after the Manaslu (8 163 m) Peak. The area is a broadening valley with stony fields and forests.

The area has isolated yak pastures and sparse vegetation toward the peaks and extensive pine and rhododendron forest in the lower valley. The King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation has been given the management of area till the year 2008. It has over 6 000 inhabitants whose main occupation is agriculture and animal husbandry.

Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR)

The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was established in 1976, covering 175 km2 of the Koshi flood plain lying in the Saptari, Udyapur and Sunsari Districts (CBDC, 1998). Since 1987 it has been classified as a wetland of international importance under the Ramasar Wetland Convention. The vegetation is mainly khar-patter grassland with patches of khair-sisoo forest.

The reserve is the only area in Nepal that has wild buffalo, numbering about 100. It also supports tigers and ungulates and provides habitat to about 295 bird species. The swamp partridge and Bengal florican are significant endangered species.

Shivpuri Watershed and Wildlife Reserve (SWWR)

The Shivpuri Watershed and Wildlife Reserve was created in 1985 and has an area of 97 km2. The area falls in the Middle Mountain physiographic zone. The vegetation includes pine, chestnut and rhododendron. Himalayan bear, leopard, deer, wild boar and langur are the main wild animals.

Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (RSWR)

The Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve is in the riverine plain of the Mahakali River and extends over an area of 305 ha. The vegetation is comprised of open grasslands intermixed with forests and swamps locally known as "phanta". The reserve is famous mainly for habitat of the swamp deer. It also supports other animals including tiger, leopard, deer, elephant, wild boar, gharial and crocodile. Many local and migratory birds can also be observed.

Parsa Wildlife Reserve (PWR)

The Parsa Wildlife Reserve was established in 1976 with an area of 175 km2 in the Chure Bhavar Region and mostly supports sal forest. The reserve also contains a human settlement (Rambhori Bhata) that adversely affects the wildlife in the reserve. The reserve is contiguous to the Royal Chitwan National Park in the west and extends almost to the Hetauda-Birjung highway in the east. The flora and fauna of reserve is mostly similar to the Royal Chitwan National Park.

The reserve supports wild elephants, tiger, leopard, sloth bear, gaur, blue bull and wild dog. Rhinoceros can be observed on the flood plain of Rapti River. The Halkhoria marshy lakes in the east function as a corridor for elephants and rhinos. The Kalopani marshy area provides water to many ungulates and carnivores. More than 300 species of bird species have been recorded in the park.

Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (DHR)

The Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve extends over an area of 1 325 km2 and was established in 1987. The main plant species include fir, spruce, juniper, birch, oak, pine, rhododendron and hemlock. The main fauna of the hunting reserve consists of leopard, ghoral, tahr, black beer, barking deer, blue sheep, wild boar, mouse hare and langur.

4.13 Assessment of biodiversity

Biodiversity in Nepal can be examined at the ecosystem, species and genetic levels in both wild and cultivated areas. At the ecosystem level, Nepal has wide diversity and contains 118 ecosystems (Dobremez et al, 1972). Eighty of these ecosystems are represented in the 17 protected areas with varying degrees of coverage (BPP 1996). Appendix Tables 22 and 23 present their number and linkages to protected areas.

At the species level, Nepal supports a very high level of biodiversity (Appendix Tables 18 and 24). The transitional location between the Palaeoarctic and Indo-Malayan zones and the variety of landscapes and ecosystems have contributed to this richness in the biodiversity of Nepal.

The biodiversity of Nepal is also reflected in its agriculture and livestock. For example, the principal agricultural crops include rice (45%), maize (20%), wheat (18%), millet (5%), oilseeds (5%) and potatoes (3%). Other crops include barley, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, cotton, tea, vegetables, and fruits.

Genetic level studies of biodiversity of wild species in Nepal are almost non-existent. However, some information is available for cultivated species. For example, rice is widely distributed with more than 2,000 land races varying in maturity, photoperiod sensitivity, grain size and quality and resistance to various environmental stresses (Maskey).

4.14 Threats to biodiversity

Loss and fragmentation of suitable natural habitat, high grazing pressure and poaching are the main threats to biodiversity conservation in Nepal. Fragmentation of habitats has limited the dispersal and recolonization of rare species such as tigers. Fragmentation of habitat has also increased the amount of forest edge, increasing predation and competition from exotic and pest species. Many of the national parks and reserves are too small and too isolated to maintain populations of many species.

Increased grazing pressure from livestock has largely displaced wild herbivores. Species such as the red panda have been adversely affected by grazing disturbance (Yonzon and Hunter 1991). Similarly, loss of suitable habitat for the wild water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) has restricted the species to within the 175 km2 of the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. The pigmy hog (Sus salvanius) is believed to have become extinct. The hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus), which has similar habitat requirements to those of the pigmy hog, is also thought to have met the same fate.

The poaching of wildlife, especially endangered species such as tiger, rhino, bear (Selenarctos thibetanus), musk deer, snow leopard, gharial and others is adversely affecting conservation efforts. The control of poaching outside protected areas is very difficult.

4.15 Summary

Nepal has a unique position in biodiversity, forests and water resources. However continued decline of these resources raises serious concerns about their long-term sustainability. The Nepalese forests are subject to fragmentation, deforestation and degradation. Similarly, poaching of wildlife has continued to reduce their numbers. Soil and land erosion has affected recharge, flow and storage of water resources. The Government of Nepal is well aware of these problems and threats and is developing projects and programs to alleviate them as rapidly as possible.

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