Bhutan’s Forests through the Framework of Ecosystem Services: Rapid Assessment in Three Forest Types

Sears, R. R. C., et al., 2018. Forests

Original research (primary data)
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Abstract

Forests in mountain ecosystems provide a diversity of services and goods in mountain landscapes, and the immediate utility of the forest to upstream residents must be balanced with the insurance forests provide for downstream residents in the form of, especially, the services of water regulation and soil stabilization. Little empirical data exist for Bhutan that confirm a causal link between upstream forest use and downstream security. To help to fill this gap, we summarize the results of two literature reviews related to forest ecosystem services and human well-being, using the framework of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH). We report preliminary findings of three field-based assessments of forest ecosystem services on hillsides. We conducted an assessment of the perceptions of local residents about the forest ecosystem services in three distinct forest areas of Bhutan. The studies were carried out in high-altitude oak forests, forest management units (FMUs) in government reserve forests, and community plantations. We engaged villagers in focus group discussions and conducted key informant interviews. The strongest evidence in the literature for linkages between forests and GNH was found for the role forests play in socio-economic development and good governance, particularly through the community forestry program. Regulating services of forests were cited as crucial to several aspects of human well-being, but little empirical evidence was provided. To local residents in the three study locations, the provisioning services of forests were highly ranked, as were water regulating services. At the plantation sites, residents felt that the new forests did improve soil stability and water provisioning services. Cultural services were identified but not highly prioritized. Awareness of forest ecosystem services was high among participants in the study, but understanding of the causal links between forest use and human well-being was mixed. Lack of direct evidence about causal pathways between upstream forest condition and downstream security leaves gaps in our knowledge and even perpetuates myths and misconceptions about the role that forests play. We encourage further research at multiple scales and using mixed methods to test hypotheses on the linkages between forests and human well-being in mountain landscapes.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-249-2
  • Intervention type: Mixed created/non-created habitats
  • Intervention description:

    The main source of commercial timber in Bhutan is the forest management unit (FMU), which is a component of the government reserve forest designated primarily for timber production. The FMU system is based on principles of sustained yield of timber but tempered with attention to multiple-use forestry objectives that best reflect the needs of Bhutanese society.... timber harvest and land cover change (forest to plantation) in the FMU

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Loss of timber production  Negative Water availability: provisioning service “fresh water” [Negative effect] Loss of ecosystem goods: provisioning service “boulders” [no effect] Timber production: provisioning service “timber” [Negative effect] Other: regulating service “local weather regulation”, “fresh air” [Negative effect] paper refers to another article for causes of water scarcity which indicates changing monsoon patterns are threatening water therefore linked to climate impact and coded for but indicated that other ES provided by forests are affected by climate change as well hence why coded for loss of EG, other, timber production. this is captured in the following quote from the paper. "The forest ecosystem services in the local FMUs were generally perceived to have decreased in the past decade (2006–2016). Exceptions were that land productivity and stone were viewed to remain the same by both the female and male groups of one village. The perceived causes of declining forest ecosystem services from the FMUs were increases in human population, pollution, road construction, demand for timber resources, waste disposal, activity by timber harvest and road operation machinery and vehicles, deforestation and climate change."
    Other climate impact  Negative Water availability: provisioning service “fresh water” [Negative effect] Loss of ecosystem goods: provisioning service “boulders” [no effect] Timber production: provisioning service “timber” [Negative effect] Other: regulating service “local weather regulation”, “fresh air” [Negative effect] paper refers to another article for causes of water scarcity which indicates changing monsoon patterns are threatening water therefore linked to climate impact and coded for but indicated that other ES provided by forests are affected by climate change as well hence why coded for loss of EG, other, timber production. this is captured in the following quote from the paper. "The forest ecosystem services in the local FMUs were generally perceived to have decreased in the past decade (2006–2016). Exceptions were that land productivity and stone were viewed to remain the same by both the female and male groups of one village. The perceived causes of declining forest ecosystem services from the FMUs were increases in human population, pollution, road construction, demand for timber resources, waste disposal, activity by timber harvest and road operation machinery and vehicles, deforestation and climate change."
    Loss of other ecosystem goods  No effect Water availability: provisioning service “fresh water” [Negative effect] Loss of ecosystem goods: provisioning service “boulders” [no effect] Timber production: provisioning service “timber” [Negative effect] Other: regulating service “local weather regulation”, “fresh air” [Negative effect] paper refers to another article for causes of water scarcity which indicates changing monsoon patterns are threatening water therefore linked to climate impact and coded for but indicated that other ES provided by forests are affected by climate change as well hence why coded for loss of EG, other, timber production. this is captured in the following quote from the paper. "The forest ecosystem services in the local FMUs were generally perceived to have decreased in the past decade (2006–2016). Exceptions were that land productivity and stone were viewed to remain the same by both the female and male groups of one village. The perceived causes of declining forest ecosystem services from the FMUs were increases in human population, pollution, road construction, demand for timber resources, waste disposal, activity by timber harvest and road operation machinery and vehicles, deforestation and climate change."
    Reduced water availability  Negative Water availability: provisioning service “fresh water” [Negative effect] Loss of ecosystem goods: provisioning service “boulders” [no effect] Timber production: provisioning service “timber” [Negative effect] Other: regulating service “local weather regulation”, “fresh air” [Negative effect] paper refers to another article for causes of water scarcity which indicates changing monsoon patterns are threatening water therefore linked to climate impact and coded for but indicated that other ES provided by forests are affected by climate change as well hence why coded for loss of EG, other, timber production. this is captured in the following quote from the paper. "The forest ecosystem services in the local FMUs were generally perceived to have decreased in the past decade (2006–2016). Exceptions were that land productivity and stone were viewed to remain the same by both the female and male groups of one village. The perceived causes of declining forest ecosystem services from the FMUs were increases in human population, pollution, road construction, demand for timber resources, waste disposal, activity by timber harvest and road operation machinery and vehicles, deforestation and climate change."
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    three villages situated inside or close to an FMU area. These were located in eastern Bhutan in the Trashigang, Lhuntse, and Mongar districts.

  • Country: Bhutan
  • Habitat/Biome type: Created forest | Montane/Alpine |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable

Evidence

  • Notes on intervention effectivness: "Effectiveness assessed through perceptions of local villagers of change over time (no control) through focus group discussions. They rank which ES are important from the intervention location but although they rank them as important, they note that many are declining over time: ""The forest ecosystem services in the local FMUs were generally perceived to have decreased in the past decade (2006–2016). Exceptions were that land productivity and stone were viewed to remain the same by both the female and male groups of one village. The perceived causes of declining forest ecosystem services from the FMUs were increases in human population, pollution, road construction, demand for timber resources, waste disposal, activity by timber harvest and road operation machinery and vehicles, deforestation and climate change."" this quote captures that the intervention (timber harvest) is attributed to negative effects on these ES hence why coded as negative. and no effect for loss of EG"
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Another NbS
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: Yes
  • Impacts on GHG: Negative
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures: N/A
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Negative
  • People measures: **same as climate impacts b/c directly associated with local villagers
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: Please select
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Qualitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic:

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-249-1
  • Intervention type: Restoration
  • Intervention description:

    "Plantation programs were initiated by civil authorities in the 1940s, even before the establishment of the Department of Forests in 1952 [37]. From 1947 to 2015, the Department established over 17,400 ha of plantations [38]. In the 1990s, responding to a general call for community-based forest management, the government shifted from project-based reforestation to community-based reforestation. In this way, authority and responsibility for forest management were shifted from central government to local populations. During that shift, a government-driven initiative established forest plantations to restore degraded hillsides around the country as an approach to this community-based paradigm. The community plantation was initiated essentially to address forest degradation problems while also meeting the basic forest resource needs of communities such as fuelwood, timber, and fodder for livestock in the long run. Community members were enlisted to contribute labor to these activities. Some of the areas were eventually formally integrated as community forest after the legalization of community forestry in 1995. Five plantations that were regularized as community forest in the Punakha Dzongkhag (District) in western Bhutan were assessed. These areas were planted in the early to mid-1990s with tsenden, or the Bhutan cypress (Cupressus tortulosa Griffith, Cupressaceae). Later, some of these same stands were enriched with plantings of species in the genera Quercus and Cryptomeria. These planted forests in Punakha, which is in the temperate zone of Bhutan, are located at mid-elevation level, between 1100 and 2500 m.a.s.l. and range from 0.9 to 15 ha in size."

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Wildfire  Positive **Outcome measures are Priority ecosystem services derived from forests indicated by villagers in focus group discussions. Ranking is according to the prioritization within focus groups and the frequency of mention by focus groups (high indicates mention by all or a marjority of groups; low is one or two). Soil erosion: [positive] regulating services “soil erosion protection” ‘Improved vegetative cover and soil protection were two prominent regulating services identified by residents in all five communities.’ Wildfire: [Positive] regulating service “reduced forest fire incidence” ‘two attributed no or reduced forest fire incidences to the presence of the planted stands.’
    Soil erosion  Positive **Outcome measures are Priority ecosystem services derived from forests indicated by villagers in focus group discussions. Ranking is according to the prioritization within focus groups and the frequency of mention by focus groups (high indicates mention by all or a marjority of groups; low is one or two). Soil erosion: [positive] regulating services “soil erosion protection” ‘Improved vegetative cover and soil protection were two prominent regulating services identified by residents in all five communities.’ Wildfire: [Positive] regulating service “reduced forest fire incidence” ‘two attributed no or reduced forest fire incidences to the presence of the planted stands.’
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Five plantations that were regularized as community forest in the Punakha Dzongkhag (District) in western Bhutan were assessed.

  • Country: Bhutan
  • Habitat/Biome type: Montane/Alpine |
  • Issue specific term: Community-based (general)

Evidence

  • Notes on intervention effectivness: "Effectiveness determined by community member perceptions of outcomes since the intervention has been implemented (no control) “questionnaire and conducted open-ended interviews with 94 CFMG members to analyze benefits and costs of planting and managing the stands.” “In general, the community plantations present important ecosystem services to the communities, though they are currently minimal.”"
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Another NbS
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: Yes
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Positive
  • Ecosystem measures: "**Outcome measures are Priority ecosystem services derived from forests indicated by villagers in focus group discussions. Ranking is according to the prioritization within focus groups and the frequency of mention by focus groups (high indicates mention by all or a marjority of groups; low is one or two). Wildife habitat “Three of the five groups identified improved habitat for wild animals as a regulating service”"
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Positive
  • People measures: "**same as climate impacts because linked explicitly to effects on local community Additional social outcomes: Cultural services: aesthetic value and picnic spots "
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Qualitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: