REDD+ and ecosystem services trade-offs and synergies in community forests of central Himalaya, Nepal

Eak Rana

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

There is a growing consensus internationally that REDD+ offers an effective approach to reduce emissions and enhance carbon, improve local livelihoods and conserve biodiversity. Yet, questions remain whether REDD+ can generate simultaneous positive outcomes, particularly in community managed forests in developing countries, where forest management objectives are primarily linked to local livelihoods. My research undertakes an integrated assessment of ecological and social changes arising from a REDD+ pilot established in community forests in Nepal. Guided by an interdisciplinary research approach within a socio-ecological systems framework, my research employs a mixed methods research design applied to the collection of quantitative and qualitative data. Using primary research and existing data from forest inventories and local group records, I first assess short-term temporal changes in carbon stocks, forest biodiversity (plant species diversity, species richness, and stem density), and extraction of forest products (timber, fuelwood and fodder) in 19 REDD+ piloted community forests. I then analyse trade-offs and synergies between protecting carbon stocks, biodiversity and provision of forest products in these forests. The results highlight that carbon stocks have increased and biodiversity attributes have decreased following the implementation of REDD+, coinciding with a decrease in fuelwood and fodder extraction and an increase in timber removal. There were both trade-offs and synergies in protecting carbon stocks, biodiversity and provision of forest products, though trade-offs were generally prevalent for carbon stocks (e.g. forests with high carbon stock value had relatively low biodiversity value).The sociological analysis involved in-depth assessment of two case study community forest user groups (CFUGs) to: (i) understand the factors affecting forest products removal, and (ii) analyse how REDD+ has influenced local forest and group management practices. Qualitative social data covered perceptions and experiences of respondents from local communities and district and national stakeholders, and were obtained through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Quantitative data derived from household surveys and group records were used to substantiate the qualitative results. The results reveal that the factors influencing extraction of forest products are multi-dimensional, local and non-local, and include institutional arrangements and socio-economic and biophysical characteristics. Changed access regulations, growing of trees on private farmlands, transformation of agriculture from traditional crops to vegetable farming, outmigration and introduction of alternative energies led to a decrease in fuelwood and fodder extraction, while development of road networks and wood-based factories were associated with an increase in timber extraction.REDD+ strengthens institutional capacity, promotes pro-poor and equitable benefit sharing and increases the representation of marginalised households in decision-making. However, REDD+ may increase costs of CFUGs and the time commitment of forest users, reduce motivation of forest users to engage in REDD+, and exclude poor members from decision-making. REDD+ implementation sought to restrict forest products access and emphasise protection-oriented activities, leading to an increase in carbon stocks, but in practice it undermines the customary rights and livelihoods of poor households, and destabilises the customary practices of forest activities of self-regulated CFUGs.I concluded that consideration of socio-economic and institutional factors is essential for future REDD+ designs.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Thwaites, Rik, Co-Supervisor
  • Luck, Gary, Principal Supervisor
Award date23 Mar 2016
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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