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Assessment of inherent vulnerability of forests at landscape level: a case study from Western Ghats in India

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Assessment of vulnerability is an important step in building long-term resilience in the forestry sector. The objective of this paper is to present a methodological approach to assess inherent vulnerability of forests at landscape level. The approach involves use of vulnerability indicators, the pairwise comparison method, and geographic information system (GIS) tools. We apply this approach to assess the inherent vulnerability of forests of the Western Ghats Karnataka (WGK) landscape, which is a part of the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot in India. Four vulnerability indicators, namely biological richness, disturbance index, canopy cover, and slope, are selected. We find that forests in 30, 36, 19, and 15 % grid points in this region show low, medium, high, and very high inherent vulnerability, respectively. The forest showing high and very high inherent vulnerability are mostly dry deciduous forests and plantations located largely on the eastern side of the landscape. We also find that canopy cover is one of the key indicators that determine the inherent vulnerability of forests, and natural forests are inherently less vulnerable than man-made plantations. Spatial assessment of inherent vulnerability of forests at landscape level is particularly useful for developing strategies to build resilience to current stressors and climate change in future.

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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 Karnataka Forest Department (KFD, Bangalore), Forest Survey of India (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.

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Correspondence to Jagmohan Sharma.

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Sharma, J., Upgupta, S., Kumar, R. et al. Assessment of inherent vulnerability of forests at landscape level: a case study from Western Ghats in India. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 22, 29–44 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-015-9659-7

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  • Forest
  • Indicators
  • Inherent vulnerability
  • Plantation
  • Resilience
  • Vulnerability assessment