Journal of Environmental Protection, 2010, 1, 278-283
doi:10.4236/jep.2010.13033 Published Online September 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JEP
Van Panchayats as an Effective Tool in Conserving
Biodiversity at Local Level
Vardan Singh Rawat, Yashwant Singh Rawat
Department of Botany, D.S.B. Campus, Kumaun University, Nainital, India.
Received April 3rd, 2010; revised May 13th, 2010; accepted May 15th, 2010.
Forest vegetation of a community managed forest was studied along four aspects. Quercus leucotrichophora and Pinus
roxburghii was the dominant species on each of the two aspects. Across the aspects the total tree density ranged be-
tween 193 to 324.3 in d /ha, sapling density between 119 to 258.6 ind/ha and seedling density from 249.98 to 845 ind/ha.
The shrub density varied from 199.99 to 406.32 ind/ha and herb density from 9466.66 to 52483.33 ind/ha. The total
basal area varied from 0.06 to 7.15 m2/ha at eastern and north facing aspect for Quercus leucotrichophora and Pinus
roxburghii respectively showing that the forest is in young stage. Species diversity value for tree layer varied from 0.21
to 1.23 while concentration of dominance value ranged from 0.56 to 0.94. It was noticed that with an increase in spe-
cies diversity concentration of dominance value decreases indicating inverse relationship between diversity and domi-
Keywords: Van Panchayat, Aspect, Diversity, Bhatkholi, Community Managed Forest
1. Introduction
The Central Himalaya, accounts for 8.68% of the total
Indian Himalayan area (59436 km2) and harbours rich
biodiversity due to geographical and geological peculi-
arities subtending a wide range of vegetation types [1].
The Himalayan biodiversity is severely threatened by
natural and anthropogenic means. The various distur-
bances present in the area are eroding this rich biological
diversity day by day and have led to the expansion of
xerophytic conditio ns [2]. The majority of the populatio n
in the region is agricultural and pastoral. Forests present
around the agricultural fields are highly degraded due to
continuous anthropogenic disturbances. Villagers fre-
quently graze their cattle in the adjoining forest which
influence the pressure beside this accidental fire also the
main cause for degradations the forest. The exploitive
management practices and the biotic stress exerted by
hill population in relation to oak sp ecies have enco uraged
the pine in various ways [3]. Much of the area now occu-
pied by pine was originally under the potential natural
vegetation of oaks [4]. Conversion of oak forests to pine
is still proceeding on larger scale this trend may lead to
ultimate disappearance of the oak forest from the region.
A reversal of this trend requires a through evaluation of
current management practices including local people
participation. The proportion of the old growth forests
are being removed at a faster rate than young forests are
being constitu ted, as a result the prop ortion of the middle
aged forest is not stabilized, but is instead increasing [3].
In order to maintain such a structure of forests indefi-
nitely, heavy subsidy in the form of cultural practices is
required. Conservation of biological resources under
community based conservation system is a key tool to
lessen the depletion of biodiversity. Various program-
mmes have been implemented, for the conservation of
biological resources in the Indian Himalaya under the
protected area network.
The active participation and involvement of local peo-
ple either at community or individual level is essential
towards conservation of the forest and other natural re-
sources. The Van Panchayats represent one of the largest
and most diverse experiments in devolved common
property management ever developed [5]. Most of the
Van Panchayat in Uttarakhand were initiated after for-
mation of Van Panchayat Act in 1931, on degraded sites
under the control of the State Revenue Department. The
Van Panchayats have been sustainably managing their
forests for decades without any financial support. Ac-
cording to recent estimates, there are about 12,089 Van
Van Panchayats as an Effective Tool in Conserving Biodiversity at Local Level
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JEP
Panchayats managing an area of 544965 hectares. The
area under each Van Panchayat ranges from a fraction of
a hectare up to over 2000 hectares [6]. The Community
forests managed in accordance with Van Panchayat Act
is a hybrid of state ownership and community responsi-
bility. In contrast to civil forests, community forests are
not open forests. Access and use of forests is guided by
rules elaborately designed and implemented by the
communities. A major objective of Van Panchayat is to
rejuvenate and manage patches of civil soyam forests for
local use; it also prevents neighbouring villages from
intruding into this zone, once formally demarcated as a
Van Panchayat forest.
In the present study we have tried to access the impor-
tance of management practices of the Van Panchayat on
conserving and regenerating forest under their control.
2. Materials and Method
The present study has been carried out in the Van Pan-
chayat forest of Bhatkhoi situated between 29°32.98’-
29°34.32’ N latitud es and 79°41.44'-79 °43.2' E longitude
of Lamgara Developmental Block of Almora District
(Uttarakhand), where villagers pu t efforts to conserve the
surrounding forest (approximately 10.12 ha). The basic
climate pattern is governed by the monsoon rhyth m. The
annual rainfall varied from 832.0 mm to 921.9 mm, mean
maximum temperature from 16.7 to 32.6 and the
mean minimum temperature from 5.8 to 19.5 [7].
Rock types mainly comprises of schist, micaceous quar-
tizimeta morphism, plutonic bodies of granodiorites and
granites [8]. The vegetation type mainly co mpris es H ima-
layan moist temperate oak forest, subtropical pine forest.
The dominated tree species of the Van Panchayat are
Quercus leucotrichophora, Pinus roxburghii, Rhododen-
dron arboreum, and Myrica esculenta. Information re-
garding the vegetation was collected through question-
naires which will be distributed to the villagers of the
Van Panchayats. The house holds were selected ran-
domly on the basis of number of family members and
categorized in to small (< 4), medium (5 -9) and larger (>
10). Estimations also made by actual observations of the
number of head loads removed daily, actual number of
days in a year in which collection is done, number of
hours and the frequency of collection by each family.
Four aspects south west, east, north west, and north were
identified with in each aspect trees were analysed by
placing randomly 10,100 m2 circular quadrats, the size
and number of samples was determined following [9].
Sapling, seedling and shru b were studied in 10, 5 × 5 m2
quardrats placed randomly. The vegetational data were
calculated for density, frequency, abundance [10]. Im-
portance value index for trees was determined as the sum
of the relative density relative frequency, relative domi-
nance [11]. Individuals of the tree species were divided
in to three classes, Trees were consider to be individual >
30 cm cbh (Circumference at breast height), Sapling 10-30
cm cbh and seedling < 10 cm cbh [3]. Species richness
was determined following [12]. Species diversity was
computed by using Shannon-Wiener’s Index [13] and
Concentration of dominance (CD) was calculated fol-
lowing [14] .
3. Results
3.1. Tree Layer
The total tree density ranged between 193 to 324.3 ind/ha
and total basal area ranged between 5.26 and 9.41 m2/ha
among all the aspects (Table 1). The highest tree density
was that of Pinus roxb urghii (275 ind/ha) at north facing
aspect, where the lowest tree density was that of Rhodo-
dendron arboreum and Quercus leucotrichophora (6.6
ind/ha each) at north west and eastern aspect respectively.
The Pinus roxburghii was the most dominant species in
term of the total basal area and IVI (7.15 m2/ha and
287.97%) at north and eastern aspect respectively. Spe-
cies diversity value for trees varied from 0.21 to 1.23 at
east and north west facing aspect where as the concentra-
tion of dominance value ranged from 0.56 to 0.94 on
north west and eastern aspect.
3.2. Sapling Layer
The total sapling density ranges from 119 to 258.6 (ind/
ha) at eastern and north west aspect. Across all the aspect
the total sapling density of individual species ranged
from 6.6 ind/ha to 173 ind/ha each at north west aspect
for Pinus roxburghii and Quercus leucotrichophora. The
most dominant species was Pinus roxburghii (IVI =
228.71%) at eastern aspect, however the total basal area
was highest for the same species (0.49 m2/ha) at northern
aspect (Table 2). Species diversity value for sapling layer
varied from 0.75 to 1.32 which was highest on north west
aspect and lowest on east where as the concentration of
dominance value ranged from 0.45 to 0.66 at south west
and eastern aspect (Table 3).
3.3. Seedling Layer
The total seedling density varied from 249.98 to 845
ind/ha at north and north west aspect respectively. The
seedling density was highest for Quercus leucotrichoph-
ora at the north west aspect (626 ind/ha) and lowest on
north facing aspect for Quercus leucotrichophora (16.66
ind/ha). Species diversity value for seedling layer varied
from 1.06 to 1.64 on south west and north facing aspect
respectively while the concentration of dominance value
ranged from 0.09 to 0.58 on north and north west aspect
respectively (Table 3).
Van Panchayats as an Effective Tool in Conserving Biodiversity at Local Level
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JEP
Table 1. Vegetational parameters for tree and sapling layers.
Tree Sapling
Aspect Species Density
(ind/ha) TBA
(m2/ha) IVI (%) Density
(ind/ha) TBA
(m2/ha) IVI (%)
Quercus leucotrichophora 153 4.13 219.84 86 0.34 160.32
Pinus roxburghii 20 0.32 35.17 60 0.28 116.63
Myrica esculenta 20 0.84 45 13 0.03 23.04
Total 193 5.29 300 159 0.658 299.99
Quercus leucotrichophora 173 4.33 182.59 173 0.6 192.16
Rhododendron arboreum 6.6 0.86 21.08 53 0.18 42.63
Pinus roxburghii 26 0.41 38.89 6.6 0.02 53.07
Myrica esculenta 33 1.09 57.44 26 0.18 12.13
Total 238.6 6.69 300.00 258.6 0.98 299.99
Quercus leucotrichophora 6.6 0.061 12.04 26 0.11 71.28
Pinus roxburghii 200 5.2 287.97 93 0.34 228.71 East
Total 206.6 5.26 300 119 0.45 299.99
Quercus leucotrichophora 8.3 0.15 11.31 40 0.1 68.52
Rhododendron arboreum 16 0.74 27.1 - - -
Pinus roxburghii 275 7.15 225.05 93 0.49 192.74
Myrica esculenta 25 1.37 36.53 13 0.03 38.73
Total 324.3 9.41 300 146 0.62 299.99
3.4. Shrub Layer
The shrub density is highest for Pyracantha crenulata
(366.66 ind/ha) at north west aspect while lowest 6.66
ind/ha each for Urtica dioica, Carex nubigena and Ber-
beris asiatica at south west, north west and east facing
aspect respectively (Table 2). The Species diversity value
was highest on north west facing aspect (0.63) and low-
est on north west aspect (0.21), however the concentra-
tion of dominance value varied from 0.79 to 0.93 on
north and east aspect respectively.
3.5. Herb Layer
The total herb density varied from 7866.66 to 52,483.33
ind/ha at east and northern aspect respectively. Among
all the aspect Apluda mutica was the most abundant herb
present on all the four aspect having highest density
value 11333.34 ind/ha on north west aspect. The least
density were shown by Ocimum americanum (66.67 ind/
ha) on the north west aspect. The Species diversity value
was highest on south west (2.01) and lowest on north
west aspect (0.84), however the concentration of domi-
nance value ranged from 0.39 to 0.69 on south west and
north west aspect respectively (Table 3).
3.6. Regeneration
The population structure of some dominant species is
given in Figure 1. The seedlings and saplings of Quercus
leucotrichophora were present on all the aspect. On east-
ern aspect number of Quercus leucotrichophora seed-
lings was higher where as saplings was higher on north-
ern aspect. Trees of Quercus leucotrichophora were pre-
sent in the younger girth classes (30-60 cm) indicating
good regeneration status of this species while Pinus rox-
burghii saplings and seedlings were higher at south
western aspect, similarly the majority of trees of this
species was that of younger and in the girth class of
30-60 cm (Figure 1(c)). Conversion of seedlings to sap-
lings and saplings to trees of Quercus leucotrichophora
was satisfactory indicating well regeneration pattern and
effective forest management.
4. Discussion
The value of total tree density (193 to 324.3 ind/ha) re-
ported in the present study falls within the range values
reported earlier by [6,15,16] for different central Hima-
Van Panchayats as an Effective Tool in Conserving Biodiversity at Local Level
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JEP
Table 2. Density (ind/ha) for seedling, shrub and herb layers.
Species Aspect
Seedling South West North West East North
Quercus leucotrichophora 266 626 173 16.66
Rhododendron arboreum - 20 - 33.33
Myrica esculenta 73 173 53 133.33
Pinus roxburghii 26 26 26 66.66
Total 365 845 252 249.98
Prinsepia utilis 13.33 - - -
Pyracantha crenulata 240 366.66 193.33 325
Urtica dioica 6.66 - - -
Berberis asiatica - 20 6.66 33.33
Rubus ellipticus - - - 8.33
Carex nubigena - 6.66 - -
Pyrus pashia - 13 - -
Total 259.99 406.32 199.99 366.66
Apluda mutica 11200 11333.34 6933.34 6266.67
Galium aparine 800 - - 266.68
Themeda anathera 2100 - 133.34 -
Rosea brocera 1000 - - -
Setaria homonyma 2200 - - -
Hypericum elodeoides 250 - - -
Anaphalis contor ta 600 - - 266.67
Desmodium podocarpum 800 200 666.67 533.34
Anaphalis busua - - - 2266.68
Oplismenus compositus - 2066.67 133.34 -
Micromeria biflora - 133.34 - -
Ocimum americanum - 66.67 - 266.67
Carex nubigena - - - 400
Total 18,950 13,800 7,866.66 52,483.33
layan oak and pine forest (280-1680 ind/ha). The sap-
lings and seedling density of Quercus leucotrichophora
were higher on north western aspect where as eastern
aspect shows least density. The lower density on eastern
was due to encr o achmen t of fuelwo od, fodder and an imal
grazing by villagers. Conversion of seedlings to saplings
and saplings to trees of Quercus leucotrichophora was
satisfactory indicating well regeneration pattern and ef-
fective forest management.
It is interesting that the previous research on chirpine
indicates that pine is good reproducer not only in its own
forest but also in other forest [9] and the replacement of
Van Panchayats as an Effective Tool in Conserving Biodiversity at Local Level
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JEP
Table 3. Species diversity (SD), species richness (SR) and concentration of dominance (CD) along different aspects.
Aspect Parameter Vegetation layer
Tree Sapling Seedling Shrub Herb
SD 0.94 1.31 1.06 0.47 2.01
CD 0.65 0.45 0.57 0.85 0.39
South West
SR 3 3 3 3 9
SD 1.23 1.32 1.17 0.63 0.84
CD 0.56 0.51 0.58 0.87 0.69
North West
SR 4 4 4 4 5
SD 0.21 0.75 1.19 0.21 1.21
CD 0.94 0.66 0.53 0.93 0.57
SR 2 2 3 2 4
SD 0.84 1.24 1.64 0.59 1.74
CD 0.72 0.49 0.09 0.79 0.43
SR 4 3 4 3 7
Quercus leucotrichophora
South West
Nor t h W e st
Pinus roxburghii
So uth We st
North West
Eas t
Figure 1. Population structures of two dominant species at
different aspects; the relative density is on y-axis and the
girth classes on x-axis; A = Seedlings, B = Saplings, Trees-
C = 30-60 cm, D = 61-90 cm, E = 91-120 cm.
the oak forest by pine has become a common and ever-
increasing phenomenon [3], howeve r from this study it is
clear that if the forests are management properly the
banj-oak will not disappear in n ear future. The total basal
area of the present study for tree layer varied from 5.26
and 9.41 m2/ha. This p attern of total basal area was simi-
lar to the pattern reported earlier by [9,17,18], (35.02 to
83.77 m2/ha) for different oak forests of Kumaun Hima-
laya. The lower total basal area of the present study
shows that the forest is in young stage. The Species di-
versity of tree layer of the present study varied from 0.21
to 1.23 while concentration of dominance value ranged
from 0.56 to 0.94. These values are generally comparable
with the values reported earlier by different workers for
temperate forests [16,19,20]. Tree species richness were
higher in north and north west aspect where as seedling
species richness were higher north west and north facing
aspect respectively. Where as the herb richness were
higher on south west. It is a well known fact that the al-
titude and aspect represents a complex gradient along
which many environmental variables change concomi-
tantly. The ecosystem functions, distribution and occur-
rence of species had been affected by human interven-
tions [2]. Among human influence, commercial exploita-
tion, agricultural requirements, forest fire, and grazing
pressure are the important source of disturbance [21].
However if the forest are managed properly with the in-
volvement of the local community co ndition of their for-
est has been improved and the forests are free from
heavy anthropogenic disturbances which also helpful for
mitigating climate change and carbon trading.
Once the people start realizing that the carbon of their
forests is saleab le they will be motivated to conserve them.
Thus, management of natural resources by the commu-
nity becomes more evident keeping in minds its utility
value and benefits to the communities. Forests of Utta-
rakhand are huge natural resource that could be tapped to
eradicate rural poverty. It could be managed in a way to
contribute more significantly towards rural livelihoods
than at present. It is not po ssible to conserve these forests
for long without participation of the community this
would enable them to save the carbon sinks of Uttara-
Van Panchayats as an Effective Tool in Conserving Biodiversity at Local Level
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. JEP
5. Acknowledgements
Authors are thankful to Dr. Ashish Tewari department of
forestry Kumaun University, Nainital for valuable sug-
gestions and Department of Forestry and Botany for pro-
viding necessary facilities and en co urag ement thro ugh ou t
the study period. Authors are also thankful to G.B. Pant
Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development
(GBPIHED) Kosi Katarmal, Almora (Uttarakhand) for
financial assistance.
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