Firewood consumption and extraction from community forests in East Khasi Hills District, Meghalaya: Its impact on woody species diversity and population structure
Abstract: Firewood serves as the principal source of energy for cooking and heating, for many rural communities, but the impact of firewood extraction on the forest is often undermined. The present study was undertaken to assess the firewood consumption pattern by households living near community forests of East Khasi Hills District, Meghalaya and the impact of such activity on species diversity and population structure on such forests. Data on firewood consumption and preferred firewood species, and impacts of firewood harvesting on species diversity and population structure were collected through household surveys and phytosociological studies respectively. The surveyed households showed high dependency on firewood and the consumption pattern varies with the family size. The preferred firewood species are those of hardwood trees such as Quercus spp., Lithocarpus spp., Castanopsis spp. and Myrica spp. Firewood extraction have negative impact on forests, resulting in decrease in species diversity and population of the preferred firewood species. Statistical analysis revealed that species richness and diversity and density differ significantly in protected and unprotected forests. Despite low per capita consumption of firewood and precautionary measures like regulated harvesting in the study area, firewood harvesting cannot be ignored as an important cause of forest degradation and biodiversity loss. More research into local ecological and cultural contexts and perceptions concerning costs and benefits can help devise sustainable management options, including alternative sources of fuel.
Keywords: diversity / structure / firewood consumption / spp / species / firewood harvesting / Firewood extraction / surveys
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