Fuelwood Use and Availability in Bhutan: Implications for National Policy and Local Forest Management

Abstract

Fuelwood is the principal energy resource for millions of households around the world, yet its use, availability and management remain poorly understood in many areas. We document fuelwood consumption, growth/yield and standing biomass in a Bhutanese village and alpine area used seasonally by villagers where the government is concerned about harvesting in a recently designated national park. Pinus wallichiana was the only fuelwood used in the village and assessments suggest 52 ha could sustain local needs at current consumption levels (54 m3/household/yr). In contrast, Rhododendron aeruginosum was used in the alpine site and at current consumption rates all will be consumed by 2023. Our findings emphasize the need to manage fuelwood based on site-specific consumption, growth and standing biomass criteria rather than single, nation-wide regulations. We provide methods to develop sustainable fuelwood harvesting and forest management guidelines that are applicable to government and community-managed forests in Bhutan and elsewhere.

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Acknowledgements

We greatly appreciate the assistance provided by D. Affleck in research design and statistical analysis, and the valuable comments and suggestions provided by anonymous reviewers and the editor. Research funding was provided by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

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Correspondence to Sangay Wangchuk.

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Wangchuk, S., Siebert, S. & Belsky, J. Fuelwood Use and Availability in Bhutan: Implications for National Policy and Local Forest Management. Hum Ecol 42, 127–135 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-013-9634-4

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Keywords

  • Community forestry
  • Household livelihood
  • Sustainable harvesting