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STUDY ON THE LITTER REMOVAL PRACTICES IN THE COMMUNITY FORESTS FROM CENTRAL DEVELOPMENT REGION OF NEPAL. (Dhading District)

Abstract: Forest, agriculture and animal husbandry are the most intractable aspects of economic development in Nepal. Especially in the Middle Hills, forest plays an important role for sustaining both agriculture and animal husbandry by providing green leaves to feed livestock, and the fallen dry leaves for animal bedding and compost making the major nutrient supply to agricultural fields. Large quantity of the litter is removed every year from the forest but the little attention is found to be given in the community Operational plan to quantify the amount of the litter removal, estimation of the nutrient loss, its long run effect on the forest ecosystem and regularization of the collection in scientific way. No study has been found to be conducted in community forests showing the nutrient input through litter fall and nutrient flow through litter removal from the forest. The research is an attempt to study and quantify the total amount of the annual litter fall in Sal (Shorea Robusta) forests, its removal by users and the nutrient loss through the removal in forest. The research is conducted on qualifying the total amount of the litter fall in Sal (Shorea Robusta) forests, its removal, uses by community people and the nutrient loss made every year from the litter removal in Ranibari Community Forests of Dhading District. The amount of the leaf litter fall for the Sal is estimated in the present study about 6.35 tons and about 85% of the total fall is collected by the users. Among the users about 70% are unaware of the nutrient deficiency caused by the litter removal on the forest in the long run. Their views about removing litter for the protecting forest from fire, promoting the regeneration by clearing the ground and creating safety against harmful insects. Through the litter fall total amount of the carbon 2140kg, nitrogen 78.04 kg, phosphorous 9.56kg, and potassium 66.87kg, calcium 44.77kg, magnesium 8.54kg per hectare per year are estimated to be added in the forest floor. Heavy collection of the litter causes nutritional deficiency and the changes soil condition which finally affects plant growth and the yield production. Consequently, the objectives of the community forest management cannot be achieved satisfactorily. Therefore, litter removal practices one of the essential components to be considered while preparing operational plan for community for management.

Key Words: Community forestry, litter fall, litter collection, Nutrient of litter, Shorea robusta
Introduction: Nepal is an agrarian country where about 90 percent of the population is engaged in the farming system. Agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry are the major interrelation components of the farming system. Farming is the based on an interactive system where cropping patterns, animal husbandry and forest products are combined. Forest are very important for Nepal, both from the socio-cultural and economic points of views. Nearly 75% of household energy and 40% of the livestock nutrition comes from the forest (Master Plan for the Forestry Sector, 1988). Forest plays an important role for sustaining the production of agricultural land and animal husbandry. Farming system in mid hills greatly depends on forest inputs such as green leaves to feed livestock, the fallen dry leaves for animal bedding and making compost with animal excreta, major nutrient supply to agricultural lands. Animal manure combined with the large quantities of forest products collected for animal bedding and fodder accounts for a considerable proportion of the nutrient supply to crops (Yadav, 1992; Khadka et al., 1884). People’s dependency on forest products for supporting their livelihood as well as meeting basic needs such as fuel wood, fodder, timber and leaf litter has created a heavy thrust on the natural resources. The consequences of the heavy pressure on the forest can be seen as soil erosion, landslide, flood and drought etc. Hill farmers have increasingly been confronted with a decline in forest fodder supply due to steadily increasing livestock population, deforestation and livestock grazing in forests (Mahat, 1987). The forest is an important factor to sustain production per unit of cultivated land (Shrestha and Katuwal, 1992). This problem is likely to be aggravated further due to the excess removal of the surface litter and crop residues, and continuous topsoil erosion (Jodha, 1995). This has also affected the farming system and caused adverse effects on the socio-economy of Nepal. Forest plays a significant role not only in Nepalese economic development but also in maintaining the ecosystem.
Community forestry program is one of the main national policies of the government of Nepal in the forestry sector which aims at the development of rural community. Community forest is a community based management practices directed towards increasing the direct benefits of the forest resources to the rural poor. Thus, community forestry is a practice of controlling and managing the forest resources by the rural people who use them for their domestic purposes and as an integral part of their farming system. The community people manage the forest based on different silvicultural operations prescribed their operational plan. The procedures of extraction and distribution of timber, fuel wood, fodder and other forest products are clearly mentioned in their Operational Plan but little attention has been found to be given towards the management of litter regarding its regularization, qualification and distribution system. In most of the community forests people claim the free distribution of the litter as their privilege of playing active role in the management and protection of forest as users. Thus, the users collect litter from the forest without giving any due attention towards the impact of the excessive removal of the litter on forest ecosystem.
Litter fall is an important pathway of flow of organic matter as well as nutrient from the vegetation to soil. Thus, it is an essential component of energy and biogeochemical cycles in forests. Litter fall also influences hydrological cycle through the changes in water infiltration and retention characteristics of the forest soil.
Forest floor is open scraped clean by litter collectors, which damages young seedling regeneration (Thomson, 1988). Leaf litter plays a vital role in forest productivity, soil fertility and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystem through its decomposition. Soil fertility influences the decomposition process through the availability of the nutrient to the decomposer and consequently affects the species composition, biomass and activity of the micro flora and fauna (Schaefer and Schauermann 1990; Raubuch and Beese 1995, Bhatta et. Al 2000; Osono et.al 2004, Hirobe et.al 2004). Therefore, soil nutrient conditions are important for the decomposition process of litter (Berg 2000; Staaf 1987, McClaugherty et. al. (1985). In spite of managing litter which plays a major role in adding nutrient in the forest, users are allowed to collect litter throughout the year regarding of time and the season. This might be the reason of unawareness of the users regarding the long run impact of the litter removal on the forest condition in one hand or the minimal research works done through its removal on the other hand. The prevalence of the inadequate technical knowledge and the information might be the reason for not prescribing the management practices of the litter in their Operational Plan.

General Objectives
·         For study total litter-fall and nutrient-loss through litters collection practices in the community forestry.
·         For study total litter-fall and the nutrient-loss through litter collection practices in the community forestry.
Specific Objectives
For the purposes of this study the working objectives were fixed as follows.
a.       To find out the existing litter collection practices in the CF
b.      To estimated the amount of the annual litter fall
c.        To quantify the annual litter removal
d.      To analyze nutrient content in leaf litter
e.       To calculate the removal of the nutrient through litter collection

3. Study Site
Dhading District, a part of Bagmati Zone, is one of the seventy-five districts of Nepal, a landlocked country of South Asia.  The district spread from 27’40’’ E to 28’ 17’’ E and 80’ 17’’ N to 84’ 35’’ N. The district, with Dhading Besi as its district headquarters, covers an area of 1,926km² and has a population (2001) of 338,658. The mountain range "Ganesh" is the predominated mountain range located within Dhading. All of the peaks are over 7,000 meters with some approaching 8,000. The 8,000+ meter mountain "Manaslu" is clearly visible from much of Dhading, although it is located within the bounds of Gorkha. The transnational "King Prithivi Highway" connecting Kathmandu and Pokhara runs through the southern  portion of the district making for easy access too the Kathmandu valley. The road parallels the "Trishuli" River. The western border with Gorkha is bisected by the “Budi Gandaki” river and this river valley is a great entrance to the Himals of Gorkha (with views of the Ganesh range), not to mention one of the prettier river of Nepal. The towns of Salantar and Arun Ghat should get you pointed in the right direction. The district is bounded by East: Kathmandu, Rasuwa, Nuwakot. West: Gorkha, North: Rasuwa and Tibet, South: Makawanpur and Chitwan. The main rivers of the district are Trisuli river and Budhi Gandaki river. Budi Gandaki separates the district from Gorkha district. There are 25 small rivers, the main being Charoudi, Malekhu, Galtukhola, Belkhukhola, Chirandikhola, Maheshkhola, Thopal, Manukhola, Kastekhola, Mastekhola, Surgandhi, Ankhusalyantar. Besides these, there are over 1743 smaller rivers, springs and the seasonal streams. Altogether there are 50 VDCs in the district. As a whole of the mountainous country Nepal, Dhading district is characterized by the geographic diversity. The natural beauty of this area add fragrance with the presence of the 25 rivers, 1700 streams, Ganesh Himal, foundation of Ganga and Jamuna, hot springs of the Jharlang, Guptesora and Chamere cave. These are also important and remarkable sites for the development of the eco-tourism. The altitude of the area from 300 (Jogimara) to 7100m (Pawil Himal) from the mean sea level and the area falls under the subtropical, temperate and the alpine climatic zone. As a result the district has immense ecological diversity. Among the 50 VDCs of Dhading District Most of the VDCs  have been selected for the study purposes. The Study was carried out in Ranibari Community forest situated in the middle hills of Dhading district. This community forest is committed for the upliftment of the economic status of the marginal people through various innovative programs related to forestry. It has been performing different activities since its establishment like equal sharing of the forest products, income generating activities to improve livelihood of the users (by supporting the cultivation of bamboo, grasses etc), organizing different training programs (Governance, Advocacy, Leadership, Capacity Assessment etc), promoting plantation of the medical and aromatic plants, nursery development, development of infrastructure (Road, school building, bio-gas support program, drinking water, irrigation, small bridge and temple), providing different scholarships, books and magazine for library etc. This community forest is very renowned and has won one national awards due to its exemplary works in the community development activities through the management of the forest. It is also affiliated with the Federation of Community Forest Users Group in Dhading. (FECOFUN).
This is a Sal (Shorea robusta) dominant forest where Sal occupies about 85% of the total tree species and in the rest 15% Lagerstroemia parviflora, Sapindus mukorosi, Schima wallichhi and Terminalia alata are distributed all over the forest area. Under the ground vegetations Eupatorium, the common weed is abundantly found in the forest and the wild varieties of the some potential medicinal plants like Asparagus racemosus, Swertia angustifolia and Rauwolfia serpentina are also distributed throughout the forest. Users also have developed a demonstration plot in this research block for the promoting income generation activities for the users. Ranibari Community Forest occupies a total area of 151.87ha of the natural regeneration of the Sal forest under the foothill of the Mahabharat range. Previuosly, forest was almost naked with few scattered tress of Shorea Robusta and obnoxious grasses. The community took self initiation in the protection to of the forest since 1989 in the name of the Ranibari Community Forest User Groups when it was handed over by the community by government by the 1994. Since it has formed a typical model of the community forest in Dhading Distriorest. The denuded forest after protection has covered with Sal regeneration. The forest is well stocked with even age Sal seedlings with the few big Sal trees scattered throughout the forest. The forest is almost homogeneous in composition and it is divided into the seven block of the management. Out of the seven blocks are
Methods
a)      Social Survey: The Ranibari Community forests  has 510 household and the population is about 3000. Social Survey was done in 10% of the total household to know user’s perception about the litter collection practices, the season of the litter collection, its use and the policies adopted in their working plan. The information was collected from the users, executive committee and interest groups by using different methods namely, household survey, informal interviews and the group discussions as well as direct observations. In order to gather the information in depth, the following broad research questions were carried out:
Ø  Are the forest condition is good enough to provide the sufficient amount of the litter for the users.
Ø  What the community forest users groups do with the litter collected from the forest
Ø  Are they getting the sufficient amount of the litter from the forest? What do they do in the case of the insufficiency
Ø  Are there any policies made for the litter collection; regarding time frame, season and the quantity
Ø  What are the user’s perception regarding the removal of the litter from the forest and what do they know about the impact on the forest by sweeping out litter from the forest floor
Ø  What do they do in case of the litter prohibition form the community forest?
Forest Inventory
The inventory of the forest was done in research plot separated for the research purposes and where our litter traps were fixed. A circular plot of 0.04ha (11.28m radius) was made for the inventory of the plot. The measurement of the tree height and the diameter, species identification and the ground cover study were made in the sampling plot. Only those species having the diameter above 6 cm were considered in the measurement but the number of the total plants in the sampling plot was counted.
Litter Collection:
The study on the litterfall was started from August, 2005 to July 2006 for one year. A total 10 litter traps (1m2 with 1mm mesh) were fixed in the forest in 5m interval along base line made inside the sample plot. The net made up of the mesh nylon fabric was tied up with an iron frame to shape it as a trap and fixed it in ground soil and the water. The fallen leaves and the small twigs accumulated in the traps were collected every week for one year. The total amount of the litter fall in a year was calculated and then Sal leaves were sorted for the estimation of the net leaf fall. Leaf was oven dried in 400 C for the estimation of the amount of the dry leaves litter fall per hectare in a year.
Analysis of the Major Nutrient
Composite samples for every month were made from weekly collected leaf litter. One sample per month was selected from the composite samples and used for the chemical analysis. The total carbon (TC), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), total nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) were analyzed by using following different methods.

Total Carbon by Ammonium Ferrous Sulphate Titration
Calcium content by EDTA Titration
Magnesium by EDTA Titration
Total Nitrogen by Kjeldhaal Digestion
Phosphorous content by Spectrophotometric and
Potassium content by the Flame Photometric 

Note: Details will be published soon
 


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