Environmental Management

, Volume 55, Issue 1, pp 187–204 | Cite as

Paisang (Quercus griffithii): A Keystone Tree Species in Sustainable Agroecosystem Management and Livelihoods in Arunachal Pradesh, India

  • Ranjay K. SinghEmail author
  • Anshuman Singh
  • Stephen T. Garnett
  • Kerstin K. Zander
  • Lobsang
  • Darge Tsering


In a study of the traditional livelihoods of 12 Monpa and Brokpa villages in Arunachal Pradesh, India using social–ecological and participatory rural appraisal techniques, we found that the forest tree species paisang (Quercus griffithii, a species of oak) is vital to agroecosystem sustainability. Paisang trees are conserved both by individuals and through community governance, because their leaves play a crucial role in sustaining 11 traditional cropping systems of the Monpa peoples. An Indigenous institution, Chhopa, regulates access to paisang leaves, ensuring that the relationship between paisang and traditional field crop species within Monpa agroecosystems is sustainable. The Monpa farmers also exchange leaves and agricultural products for yak-based foods produced by the transhumant Brokpa, who are primarily yak herders. Yak herds also graze in paisang groves during winter. These practices have enabled the conservation of about 33 landraces, yak breeds, and a number of wild plants. Paisang thus emerged as a culturally important keystone species in the cultures and livelihoods of both Monpa and Brokpa. Ecological and conservation knowledge and ethics about paisang vary with gender, social systems, and altitudes. Labor shortages, however, have already caused some changes to the ways in which paisang leaves are used and yak grazing patterns are also changing in the face of changes in attitude among local landowners. Given new competing interests, incentives schemes are now needed to conserve the ecologically sustainable traditional livelihoods.


Agrobiodiversity Indigenous communities Paisang dry leaves Rainfed agroecosystems Traditional ecological knowledge 



First author is grateful to the Central Agricultural University, Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh, for financial and logistic support to conduct this study. RKS is indebted to the traditional knowledge holders, especially Mrs. (late) Pem Dolma, Tashi Lamu, Phurpa, Ms. Kesang Wangmo, Mr. Tashi Norbu, Mr. Jambe Tsering, and Mr. Lama Dondup, for their invaluable inputs. Logistic support provided by Central Soil Salinity Research Institute, Karnal is appreciated. The authors are also grateful to the two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their critical and useful comments and suggestions that helped to improve the quality of this article. All the photographs used in this study were taken by RKS.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

For this type of study, formal approval is not required. Free informed consent was already obtained from customary chiefs of studied villages.

Supplementary material

267_2014_383_MOESM1_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ranjay K. Singh
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Anshuman Singh
    • 6
  • Stephen T. Garnett
    • 2
  • Kerstin K. Zander
    • 3
  • Lobsang
    • 4
  • Darge Tsering
    • 5
  1. 1.College of Horticulture & ForestryCentral Agricultural UniversityPasighatIndia
  2. 2.Research Institute for the Environment and LivelihoodsCharles Darwin UniversityCasuarinaAustralia
  3. 3.The Northern InstituteCharles Darwin UniversityCasuarinaAustralia
  4. 4.Gaon BurhaWest KamengIndia
  5. 5.Gaon BurhaWest KamengIndia
  6. 6.Central Soil Salinity Research InstituteKarnalIndia

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