1 The Uplands
a. Mountains/high valleys
The Hindu Kush and Himalayas are the clearest examples of this type. They are characterised by low population densities, established patterns of trade, transhumant pastoralism, dependency on forests for NTFPs and fuelwood and customary systems of forest management.
b. Hills (rainfed agriculture and small-scale valley irrigation)
Together with the humid tropics, the hill areas are the geographical zone with the highest level of forest dependency. In these areas there are strong forest-farming linkages through nutrient subsidies from forest both in rotational systems (shifting agriculture) and in permanent agriculture litter and manure, forest grazing. In some cases immigration from the lowlands adds to population pressure and, thus, to pressure on forests. Examples of this process of in-migration are the Philippines and Vietnam.
The hill zone type of forest/people interaction is evident particularly in North India, Nepal, Bhutan, the Eastern and Western Ghats of India, the NWFP in Pakistan and parts of S.E. Asia (Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and parts of Yunnan and Sichuan in China). In S.E. Asia, shifting cultivation is relatively common in this hill zone. PNG and West Irian also exhibit some of the features of this zone-type, although land tenure differences have major implications in terms of the way forests are used. Typically in the hill areas in Asia (both south and south east) large areas of forest land are under the de jure control of forest departments and forest use-rights and use-patterns are heavily contested.
In small valleys in these hill areas, additional dependencies are evident, often involving a perceived need to protect the headwater sources of irrigation.
It is in these areas of high dependency on forests that local systems of forest management are most evident and where participatory approaches to forest management have been most clearly successful.
2. The Plateaux
The plateau areas include the Deccan (including parts of West Bengal), the dry zone of Myanmar, NE Thailand, parts of eastern Indonesia, eastern China, and the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
In many cases (the dry zone of Myanmar, NE Thailand and the Central Highlands of Vietnam) there has been a great deal of clearing for agriculture and there is little forest left. Generally there are few recognised examples of indigenous forest management systems. This type of zone has been the cradle of Joint Forest Management in India.
3 The Lowlands
a. Densely Populated Floodplains and Deltas
These areas include the Red River Delta, the Mekong Delta, Java, much of the Philippines, eastern China (minus the hill areas), the Irrawaddy Delta, Bangladesh, the Gangetic Plain, the Indus Valley and the Chaophrya Delta.
These areas are often characterised by home gardens, intensively managed and productive 'man-made' forests. They tend to be populated by ethnic majorities and to be the centres of political power in most countries in Asia. They are also the sources of migrants into upland areas (in Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, China and Laos) or into lowland humid tropical areas (outer Java, the Terai in Nepal).
b. Humid tropical forest areas
Areas such as the Terai, Borneo and Sumatra are rich sources of forest products for outside exploitation and revenue generation. They tend to have low population densities and to be subject to migration from over-populated hill areas. Conversion of forest areas to plantation crops (rubber and oil palm) is common. There are also many historical and contemporary examples of NTFP collection and management. Many of these areas are under logging concessions.
4. Semi-arid (grazing) areas
In parts of India (Rajasthan and Gujarat), Pakistan, Iran, Mongolia, western China, there are large numbers of people who are heavily dependent on grazing livestock on lands which are often under the jurisdiction of forest departments.
5. Mangrove forests
Interactions between coastal fisher folk (including shrimp fishermen) and mangrove forests are important in a number of countries, including Thailand and Vietnam.
6. The Pacific Islands
Of the Pacific Islands, Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu have significant numbers of people dependent on forests for forest-based agriculture or nutrient inputs into agriculture outside forests and also for other forest products. Unlike the situation in hilly areas of Asia, customary land tenure is often the basis of legal tenure. Nevertheless commercial logging remains a major problem.