Ecosystem services from Siwalik forests and their contribution to local livelihoods in Nepal

PhD Thesis


Acharya, Ram Prasad. 2021. Ecosystem services from Siwalik forests and their contribution to local livelihoods in Nepal. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/q7158
Title

Ecosystem services from Siwalik forests and their contribution to local livelihoods in Nepal

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorAcharya, Ram Prasad
Supervisor
1. FirstProf Tek Maraseni
2. SecondProf Geoff Cockfield
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages187
Year2021
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/q7158
Abstract

Forest Ecosystem Services (FES) play critical roles in people’s livelihoods, their environments, and national economies. These services contribute to livelihoods in both high-income and low-income countries, although the contributions from forests vary widely. The contribution of FES to poor rural people, particularly those living in developing countries, is imperative as about 75% of poor people in low-income countries are primarily dependent on FES. Forest ecosystems offer approximately 20% of the income for rural households in low-income countries, through both cash and by meeting subsistence needs. Many ecosystems across the globe are degrading despite significant conservation attempts and the depletion of FES is more pronounced in the mountainous regions of developing countries. The lack of attention and priority paid by policymakers and forest managers to recognising and trying to preserve the comprehensive value of forest ecosystems, and the poor rate of adoption of findings by these leaders in the decision-making process can be argued to have contributed to ecosystem degradation.

This thesis adopts a case study approach and employs mixed (both quantitative and qualitative) methods for collating and analysing data from the Siwalik mountains of Nepal. This region is locally known as Chure and comprises young and fragile mountains ranging from 93-1955 metres above mean sea level, extending over four developing countries: Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bhutan. This study identifies and evaluates the FES and explores why FES research outcomes are rarely or only partially incorporated into policies and plans in developing countries. More specifically, the study aims to: (1) identify and prioritise major FES based on proximity (nearby vs distant users), socio-economic class (rich vs poor users) and forest management modalities (community forestry vs collaborative forestry); (2) quantify and value focal FES, and (3) design a framework for policy adoption in developing countries. Selected modalities are dominant forest management regimes in developing countries.

Data were collated through a systematic literature review, focus group discussions (n=8), expert consultations (n=47), household survey (n=253), and workshops (n=2). Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis for ecosystem service identification and prioritisation, market prices, substitute goods prices to estimate financial values received by individual households from provisioning services, willingness to pay for non-use values of regulating and cultural services in cash and labour options through generalised linear mixed modelling in Rstudio, and thematic/content analysis to explore why FES research outcomes are not incorporated into forest policies and plans. Finally, we designed a framework for research that can be helpful in adopting the findings of ecosystem research outcomes.

In this study, 42 different forest ecosystem services (16 provisioning, 15 regulating and 11 cultural) were identified. We found that preferences for services among forest users basically differ according to their proximity to forests, socio-economic status and forest management models. All subgroups of forest users placed the highest priority on firewood, water quality improvement, and bequest values, while they assigned the lowest priority to genetic resources, hazard protection, and hunting services.

Results suggest that users living near forests receive the highest economic benefits compared to those living long distances from the forest area, irrespective of the forest management modality for provisioning FES; likewise, rich users generally derive higher benefits than poorer users.

Rich people generally expressed a higher Willingness To Pay (WTP) for all high ranked non-marketed ecosystem services such as flood control, water quality improvement, bequest and aesthetic values of forests, irrespective of the management modality. The generalised linear mixed model analysis revealed that WTP values for these FES differed in both types of payment options (cash and labour). Statistical analysis between dependent variables (WTP) and other socio-economic attributes (economic status, age of the respondent, gender, caste, household size, and distance from the forest) shows that economic status, distance from forests, household income and household size largely shape the WTP values for all four categories of services.

Overall, this study suggests that FES offer benefits for users although the particular benefits differ according to proximity, economic status and management modality. Forest management plans of forest users could be refined to incorporate the aspirations, priorities and needs of the forest subgroups. This could, in consequence, improve ownership of the community-based forest management system, minimise forest degradation, and restore the critical biodiveraity in the Siwalik Mountains. These results, if carefully implemented through policy and forest management operational plans, could also add value to positive outcomes for ‘President Chure Tarai Management Plan’, World Bank ‘Tarai-Arc Strategic Plan and REDD+ initiatives’ in Nepal. Furthermore, the methods thus developed and policy adoption framework could be used for similar climatic, edaphic, topographic, and demographic sites nationally and internationally.

KeywordsForest Ecosystem Services (FES), valuation, Community-BasedForest Management (CBFM), economic contribution, forest users, policy adoption
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020410406. Natural resource management
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Byline AffiliationsCentre for Sustainable Agricultural Systems
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