Mountains provide direct life support to 10% of world’s population, and indirectly to over half. Because of their great altitudinal range, mountains such as the Himalaya, Rockies, Andes, and Alp’s exhibit, within short horizontal distances, climatic regimes like those of widely separated latitudinal belts, and as a conseque feature high biodiversity. There is a close link between mountain vegetation and climate that vegetation belt typology has been extensively used to de?ne climatic zones and their altitudinal or latitudinal transitions.
HATZ refers to the High-Altitude Transition Zone, a narrow ecotone in the high Himalaya between 3300 – 3900 m., which is critical for climate change studies. This HATZ plays an important role in Himalayan Ecology; it traps the snow for a longer period and, thus, helps recharging the aquifers for constant supply of water downstream, besides to saving soil from erosion. It is also home to variety of floral and faunal species, many of them having been assessed as ‘endangered.’ The Himalayan Pheasants are particularly known to occupy this timberline ecotone, along with musk deer.
Why High-Altitude Transition Zone?
Recent studies on global warming, receding of glaciers, change in phenological behavior of plants, etc., have brought this crucial timberline zone in focus. The zone has come to be believed as an excellent indicator of global warming due to its narrow altitudinal band and exacting conditions. Here, meristem activity is suggested to be limited for much of the time. Distribution range of plants here being narrow and definite, which are likely to respond much faster to any change in the ambient environmental temperature. Here, the species formation is also defined by temperature, prominently exhibiting shifts in the ecosystem boundaries.
Besides, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) IInd Assessment Report (IPCC,1996), recommended that ‘future research needs to understand and predict effects of climate change on mountain regions; with balance and coordination between ?eld studies (= data collection), monitoring, experimental studies, and modelling’. Areas of focus for future research suggested by IPCC included; the encouragement of speci?c regional ?eld studies; establishment of baselines and to evaluate the responses of ecosystem services to natural climate variability, as well as to provide data for model veri?cation; and monitoring programs for establishing long term baseline data, particularly in potentially sensitive regions (remote areas, high mountain elevations, etc.)
Capacity building is the process of developing and strengthening the management skills and management. Himalayan Forest Research Institute, Panthaghati (HFRI), Shimla organized a three days training on, “Capacity Building Programme for the Frontline Field Staff of Himachal Pradesh Forest Department” from 16th to 18th March, 2023 in collaboration with Himachal Pradesh Forest Department (HPFSD), Research Wing at Sundernagar.
Participants with Sh. Rajiv Kumar (PCCF & HoFF, HP), Director, HFRI and faculty
Twenty-Eight frontline field functionaries posted at various Forest Divisions of Spiti, Kinnaur, Churah, Bharmour, Chamba, Rohru, Hamirpur, Rampur, Wildlife Sarahan, Shimla and Wildlife Shimla actively participated in this training programme. During this training programme, Scientists of Himalayan Forest Research Institute; Forest Officers of Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, and eminent Advocate from the Himachal Pradesh High Court delivered their lectures touching the various aspects of forestry and basic forestry research and laws related to their works. The training programme was conducted with the clear objective to provide basic about plant identification in general, forest mensuration, fire management, laws and policies associated with forests, disease management in the nursery, modern nursery techniques and medicinal and aromatic plants. A field visit was also organized during this training programme with the clear objective to give practical exposure about plant identification, forest mensuration, and forest ecological data collection protocols. Use of GPS technology in forest management and tree measurements was also demonstrated on hands in the field.
Field Visit to the Catchment Forest
The main objective of the programme was to provide a platform for the frontline forest staff to learn practical skills to aid them in their works in the forest. It also emphasized on latest trends in forestry with special reference to forest fires and climate change as a result of global warming.
The training was inaugurated by Dr. G.S. Goraya, retired PCCF & HoFF (HP Forest) and was closed by Sh. Rajiv Kumar, the present PCCF & HoFF (HP Forest). Dr. Sandeep Sharma, Director of the institute welcomed the participants and the chief guest. Dr. Sharma impressed upon the trainees to be innovative and scientific in their work, as the challenges from global warming will be harsh. Prominent resource persons included Sh. Abhilash Damodaran, CF (IT & Projects), Dr. Sandeep Sharma, Director HFRI, Dr. Ashwani Tapwal, Sh. Pitamber Negi, Sh. Kuldesh Kumar, besides myself, all from HFRI and Senior Advocate Rajneesh Maniktala from the HP High Court, Shimla. The training was conducted as part of the global warming project being implemented by the HPSFD (Research Wing) in collaboration with the HFRI, Shimla.
I, as Principal Investigator of the project and, also the Training Coordinator, apprised the PCCF & HoFF, Sh. Rajiv Kumar (Chief Guest during the Valedictory Session) about the project objectives and trends being observed so far. I highlighted the significance of HATZ and its importance in observing the effects of global warming in high altitude zones, including treeline shifts, phenological studies, regeneration, and shrub encroachment. I also stated that studies for collecting baseline information on global warming was very important to study the impacts of climate change in the region.
Sh. Rajiv Kumar, also agreed that this important ecotone is very important and needs to be conserved, he also told the trainees to protect the entire forest ecosystem and not just the trees. He said that the forest should be looked as a complex unit of all forms and not just trees.
Earlier, Dr. Goraya, who had conceptualized this project, explained the need for such studies. He informed the participants about the major impact of Climate Change in the region. Dr. Goraya elaborated on the project “High Altitude Transition Zones” (HATZ) in Himachal Pradesh, which involve long-term studies to assess the effects of global warming. He discussed the reasons behind the project, the source of funding, and the criteria for selecting permanent plots for the studies.
Sh. Abhilash Damodaran CF (IT & Projects), Shimla delivered a presentation on forest fire preparedness. He highlighted the importance of the forest fire task force and modern firefighting equipment, such as fire-resistant suits and fluorescent jerseys. He talked about forest fire alert mobile application developed by the Forest Survey of India, and pointed out that Himachal Pradesh has the highest number of registered users (48 lakh) compared to other states.
Dr. Sandeep Sharma provided detailed information on the importance of using model nursery techniques to produce high-quality planting material for both conservation and production purposes. He explained that due to global warming and climate change, the survival conditions for plantations have become more challenging, with natural and human-made factors such as changes in rainfall patterns, reduction in rainy days, forest land diversion for developmental activities, and unfavorable plantation sites hindering their growth.
Dr. Ashwani Tapwal, talked on the management of diseases in the nursery and covered important topics related to disease management, including exclusion, eradication or reduction of inoculum, disease avoidance, protection through chemical or biological control, and host resistance. He emphasized the importance of eco-friendly disease management strategies, such as soil solarization, crop rotation, isolation trenches, and biocontrol.
There was an interesting talk by Rajneesh Maniktala, senior advocate on India’s Forests and the Judiciary. He made the participants aware about laws related to forests, and the role of field staff in implementing them in the field. He said that the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 is an Act of the Parliament of India, to provide for the conservation of forests, and for matters connected therewith or ancillary or incidental thereto. He said that it was further amended in 1988 and this law extends across India. It was enacted by Parliament of India to control further deforestation of forest areas in the country.
“Capacity building is critical for development of the country.”
Lailah Gifty Akita
Dr. Vaneet Jishtu, a field botanist specialising in high altitude himalayan flora, conducts a wide range of research at Himalayan Forest Research Institute (HFRI), where he works. At Shimla he has pioneered in setting up an arboretum, a botanical garden where a vast collection of Himalayan trees have been planted. He lives in Shimla
The Western Tragopon photograph is credited to Sh. Narsimha..which he clicked at the Sarahan Phesantry