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Vulnerability of Forests in India: A National Scale Assessment

Abstract

Forests are subjected to stress from climatic and non-climatic sources. In this study, we have reported the results of inherent, as well as climate change driven vulnerability assessments for Indian forests. To assess inherent vulnerability of forests under current climate, we have used four indicators, namely biological richness, disturbance index, canopy cover, and slope. The assessment is presented as spatial profile of inherent vulnerability in low, medium, high and very high vulnerability classes. Fourty percent forest grid points in India show high or very high inherent vulnerability. Plantation forests show higher inherent vulnerability than natural forests. We assess the climate change driven vulnerability by combining the results of inherent vulnerability assessment with the climate change impact projections simulated by the Integrated Biosphere Simulator dynamic global vegetation model. While 46% forest grid points show high, very high, or extremely high vulnerability under future climate in the short term (2030s) under both representative concentration pathways 4.5 and 8.5, such grid points are 49 and 54%, respectively, in the long term (2080s). Generally, forests in the higher rainfall zones show lower vulnerability as compared to drier forests under future climate. Minimizing anthropogenic disturbance and conserving biodiversity can potentially reduce forest vulnerability under climate change. For disturbed forests and plantations, adaptive management aimed at forest restoration is necessary to build long-term resilience.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Norwegian Research Council and Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) Oslo, Norway for supporting the research project on “Climate change and forests”. We thank FSI (Dehradun) and Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS, Dehradun) for providing spatial data on indicators. RKC would like to thank the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India for supporting this study in the form of National Environmental Sciences Fellowship. Comments from two anonymous reviewers have helped in improving the manuscript. We are thankful to them.

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Correspondence to Jagmohan Sharma.

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Sharma, J., Upgupta, S., Jayaraman, M. et al. Vulnerability of Forests in India: A National Scale Assessment. Environmental Management 60, 544–553 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-017-0894-4

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Keywords

  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Forest
  • India
  • Climate change
  • Inherent vulnerability
  • Vegetation model