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iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry
vol. 2, pp. 93-98
Copyright © 2009 by the Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology
doi: 10.3832/ifor0490-002

Research Articles

Community based forest management and its impact on vegetation: a case study

P. Kumar (1)Corresponding author, S. Hate (2), A. Chaturvedi (2)


Conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development of any ecosystem is a multifaceted activity. It includes various components, including, biological, ecological and the issue of enterprise. These components become active and very obvious, when one finds dependence of human being on their surrounding vegetation more than the others. Successful co-existence of the plant and man is a tricky situation. Although of man has fulfilled basic needs through the plants, which they find in their surrounding, they in turn jeopardize the health of their green wealth. Biodiversity is a part of our daily life and livelihood; and constitutes the resources upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend ([7]). Many minor forest produces (MFP’s) are important not only in rural and tribal economies, but also in the national economy ([1], [12], [16], [27], [29]). Humans depend on MFP’s for food, energy, construction materials, medicine and much else besides. Further, these resources have the critical character of being renewable, hence with proper management they can be used sustainably ([21]), ensuring their use for our future generations.

India is very rich in biodiversity at ecosystems and species level, it ranks sixth among 12 mega-diversities in the world and holds two biodiversity “hot spots”. India possesses 49.219 species of flora about 15% of global known plant species ([31]). Gadchiroli, a declared backward district in a highly developed state of Maharashtra (India), has a major share of the forest area and also of tribal population (including primitive tribes). Out of its total geographical area of 14.412 km2, 93.06 % is classified as “forest” with 38 per cent of its population as “tribal”. Almost 64 percent of the state’s “protected forest”, where the local communities have comparatively more rights belong to Gadchiroli district. The study becomes relevant because little more than two decades ago, this area, which was once known for high quality forest, was found to be degrading. Under the 74th amendment to the Indian constitution, management rights of 14 items of minor forest produce have been transferred to the local Gram Sabha in scheduled areas, and Gadchiroli is one of them. Detailed field study was restricted to Dhanora (Markegaon and Devulgaon) and Khurkhera (Ranvahi) sub divisions of Gadchiroli district. All these three villages fall under same biogeoclimatic zone, but differ in their resource utilization practices. Residents of forest villages, experiencing the brunt of reduced availability of basic forest products like fuel wood and fodder, have now decided to revive their age-old management practices and conservation methods. Its preliminary impact on the quality of forest is found remarkable. The present paper tries to relate the usage and management of minor forest produces in consonance to richness and diversity of the vegetation.

Materials and methods 

International Forest Resources and Institutions (IFRI) method was used to collect biophysical information of the forest, vegetation and socio-economy of the dwellers ([15]). In this method information was collected through pre-structured research questionnaire/forms as given below:

  1. Forest form: It included details of geological distribution of the forest, history of the settlement, harvesting methods, soil structure, pest information, anthropogenic disturbances etc.
  2. Village form: It included information regarding community structure, population, literacy rate, cultivation practices, socio-economy etc.
  3. User group form: Information on the institutional aspects like rules in-use, sanctions, use of forest resource, details of user groups, marketing information etc. was collected through this form.
  4. Plot form: It was used to collect vegetation data of the forest and served as key link between the social and institutional data collected in other forms.

These plots were selected randomly to record the anthropogenic impact of forest use. Each plot had three circles of 1 meter, 3 meters and 10 meters radius each, and smaller plots were nested in larger ones (Fig. 1). Plots of one meter radius were drawn to observe annual vegetation and seedlings, three meter radius plots were drawn for shrubs and saplings of 2.5 to 10 cm dbh (diameter at breast height) and plots of ten meter radius were drawn for the study of trees (≤ 10cm dbh) and woody climbers. A total 90 plots (i.e., 90 x 3 nested plots of 1m, 3m and 10m) were demarcated to represent all types of vegetation in the forests of villages Markegaon, Devulgaon and Ranvahi. A floristic survey was done in all ninety plots to compare diversity of the species. Plant species were identified with the help of The Flora of British India ([13]), The Flora of the Presidency of Bombay ([5]), and The Flora of Nagpur district ([33]).

Fig. 1 - Methodology adopted for forest vegetation analysis. (a): 10 m radius; (b): 3m radius; (c): 1m radius.

Vegetation data were quantitatively analysed for density, frequency, and abundance ([22]). Relative density, relative frequency and relative dominance were determined following Phillips ([26]). The important value index (IVI) was determined as sum of relative density, relative frequency and relative abundance ([6]). The species richness, diversity index (H) and concentration of dominance (Cd) of the species in the forest were also analysed. The diversity index was calculated following Shannon & Wiener ([28]) method as (eqn. 1):

\begin{equation} \bar{H} = \sum (N_i / N) \log(N_i / N) \end{equation}

The concentration of dominance was determined using the Simpson’s index ([30]) as (eqn. 2):

\begin{equation} Cd = \sum(N_i / N)^2 \end{equation}

where N i is number of individual species and N is a total number of all species present in the forest.


Three villages, Markegaon, Devulgaon and Ranvahi fall under the same bioclimatic zone. All these forests belong to the dry deciduous category and receive around 1420 mm of rainfall annually. The soil types and conditions do not vary much among the three forests, only from loam to silty-sandy-clay-loam in Markegaon, from sandy-loam to silty-clay-loam in Devulgaon and from sandy-silty-loam to clay in Ranvahi. The soil was found to be uniformly shallow and severely pest-infested in all the forests. Socio-physical parameters of the three villages are tabulated in Tab. 1. Results of floristic survey showed that Markegaon was with largest number of species (113 plant species belonging to 91 genera) followed by Devulgaon (104 plant species belonging to 79 genera) and Ranvahi (78 plant species belonging to 69 genera). In Devulgaon, tree species number was reduced from saplings to older trees; however, in other two villages some disturbances were observed in the seedlings and saplings. DBH and height analysis of the trees species in studied forests have been depicted in Fig. 2.

Tab. 1 - Socio-physical parameters of the villages studied.
Fig. 2 - Diameter at breast height (dbh) and height analysis of vegetation under study. (a): Markegaon; (b): Devulgaon; (c): Ranvahi.

Analysis of variance with Dunnet multiple comparison test showed Devulgaon has highly dense and abundant forest vegetation as compared to Markegaon (0.02 and 0.28 respectively) and Ranvahi (0.11 and 0.02 respectively). Differences between frequency, density and abundance of all these three forests are presented in Tab. 2, and important value of each species (IVI) of major vegetation under study is given in Fig. 3. Analysis of diversity indices showed that Devulgaon has an increasing species richness from saplings (2.456) to trees (2.876) and to seedlings (3.599), being the concentration of dominance in the same line. Diversity indices (Shannon’s and Simpson’s index) are tabulated in Tab. 3.

Tab. 2 - Frequency, density and abundance of the vegetation: comparative analysis of the forests under study. (*): ANOVA with Dunnet Multivariate Comparison test; P > 0.05: non significant.
Fig. 3 - Important value index of major vegetation under study.
Tab. 3 - Diversity indices of the forests under study: species richness (Shannon index) and concentration of dominance (Simpson index).

Dependence of the people on various minor forest products in these villages was found to be very high. Several minor forest produces are being used by aboriginals for their day-to-day needs and many of them are their income generative sources. It was observed that consumption of Bamboo (Bambusa arundinaceae) is very high, being used for making many items like baskets, rope holder, grain covers, shelves, poultry hatchery, roofing of house, pig sty, livestock room, fencing, etc. There are several other items which tribal people use in their day-to-day life and are made from forest products, like grain crusher from the wood of Acacia catechu Willd. (Khair) and Soymida febrifuga Juss.(Rohan), lamp stand are made out of Terminalia alata, mats are woven from the grass blades of Borassus flabellifer L. (Sindhi), thin ropes are made out of Hibiscus cannabinus L. (Ambardi) bark, Cyperus rotundus L. and Helicteres isora L. (Murad sheng), from the leaves of Azadirachta indica Juss. (Kaduneem) and Cleistanthus collinus pesticides for crops. Most of the fallen branches and leaves of the forest species are being used as fuel and fodder. However, some times they cut the branches for their daily needs, an average quantity of fuel wood used per day is 5 Kg (fallen branches) per house. Different minor forest produces, uses and the product value are tabulated in Tab. 4.

Tab. 4 - Minor forest produces with source, uses and income generation (Rs = Rupia, Indian currency; 1 US$ = 47 Rs). Local names are in parentheses.


Institutional analysis

Common aspects in these three villages are the geographical location, topography, erstwhile plant species, legal status of forest, main occupation of the people, and the state of forests some 25 years ago. Differences are the degree of heterogeneity, size (though the differences are not very large), per capita forest land available and difference in priorities taken as proxy to discount rate which is also reflected in their concept of wealth (Tab. 1). Many of minor forest produces (MFP’s) are being used by locals for the improvement of their livelihood status; these includes leaves, flowers, fruits, branches, gums/resins, roots, fallen and dead wood ([19]). Factors like total forested area, access, historic use of both target and non-target species and observation of land use patterns in adjacent areas have a dramatic impact on the forest development, which contributes to supply and the sustainable use ([14]). If the harvesting quotas, established based on the original total area, continue despite reductions in supply area, harvesting per unit area will exceed growth and yield, leading to depletion of the target species ([2]). Earlier Markegaon forest was well managed hence maximum girth rate of the vegetation with more number of older trees was found, however, in recent times it was disturbed. As for Devulgaon, being maintained by management practices since 15 years ago, the forest analysis has shown maximum count of seedlings and saplings. Ranvahi village was neither maintained nor being maintained by any sort of management practices hence its dbh classes showed huge variation (Fig. 2).

Vegetation analysis

Forest vegetation was measured by few parameters, including the number of species present (species richness), their relative abundances (species evenness), the particular species present (species composition), the interactions among species (impact factor), temporal and spatial variation in these properties ([8], [3]). Comparative analysis (relative frequency, relative density and relative abundance) of these species with other forest species showed Cleistanthus collinus to be dominant with high IVI in two of the forests (Markegaon and Ranvahi) and Terminalia alata in Devulgaon (Tab. 3). Anogeisus latifolia (DC.) Wall. (Dhawra), Madhuca longifolia (Koen.) Macbr (Mohwa) and Lannea coromandelica (Houtt.) Merr. (Mahaiw) showed random distribution in all the three villages. According to Odum ([23]), clumped (contagious) distribution is the most common pattern in nature, while random distribution is expected in uniform environments.

Species diversity is considered as an important ecological attribute of a natural and organized community ([11]) and has functional consequences because of the number and kinds of species present and their influence on ecosystem process ([17]). In the present study, both species richness and concentration of dominance was observed to increase from trees to saplings to seedlings in Devulgaon (Tab. 3). This is an indication of good forest condition at the present time and for future generations. Markegaon showed an increasing pattern of these indices from trees to saplings, but maintained minimal difference from seedling to saplings; it seems that this forest is in climax succession stage. Whereas, Ranvahi forest showed growth disturbances, hence trees with maximum richness but seedlings and saplings with less richness (Tab. 3). The people of Ranvahi used to clear the ground either by fire or by cutting ground flora before harvest of Madhuca longifolia flowering (to make alcoholic beverage) and Diospyros melanoxylon leaf collection (to prepare cigar like item). Hence the regeneration of ground flora and tree species got down. The regeneration status of species harvested for MFP’s as inferred from population structure is a useful indicator of whether MFP harvest is likely to be detrimental to the target population in the long term ([9], [4]).

Role of community

The achievement of Devulgaon community is outstanding especially for the management of forest harvesting, felling of trees and grazing, etc. Main reason for the success is found to be the effective leadership provided by few persons within the community and collective action. Forest vegetation is considered as an important ecological attribute of a natural and organized community ([18]). Leadership can be informal/traditional or formal, but a leader should have the capability to make the community beneficial ([10]). These efforts were supported by the forest department. Almost 15 years ago the community-initiated management has begun in Devulgaon. Effective leadership, which could convince everybody in the village about the need to protect forest resource, seems to have made a huge impact in the initial success of collective action and emergence of local institution. In addition to this, factors like self-imposed restrictions by the community, monitoring by the members within the community, effective patrolling, verifiable improvement in the quality of the resource, improved flow of forest goods like fuel and fodder have contributed to the effective working of the local institution in Devulgaon.

Sustainable resource management model

There is growing awareness that biodiversity is closely linked with long-term health and vigour of the biosphere, as an indicator of global environment and also as a regulator of ecosystem functioning ([32]). The height and diameter (dbh) analysis revealed that these forests have a good source of carbon mitigation in future. Plant growth is directly proportional to the carbon sequestration capacity of the forest ([24], [25]). Present and future status of these forests is showed in Tab. 5. Knowledge on status of MFP’s, their utility and dependences of natives on them forced us to think about the plans for their sustainable development. Problems of grazing species can be circumvented by range management plans, which includes introduction of grasses, sedges and small bushes in nearby villages. This type of management could help villagers in getting fuel wood without disturbing the main vegetation ([20]). Plantation of fuel wood species and horticulturally important species could help to improve fuel production and fulfil daily requirement of food. Selection of the species should be such that recurring efforts for the plantation should not be needed. In the management of industrial valued species, harvesting time should be right and there should be replacement plan for harvested species. Medicinal plants are today’s green gold, number of pharmaceutical companies are coming forward. Plantation of these species can help in regular supply of raw materials and such species would require more attention of conservation. A management model is drawn in Fig. 4 for the sustainable development of aboriginals through different groups of MFP’s and their management practices.

Tab. 5 - Present and future status of the studied forests.
Fig. 4 - Resource management model for sustainable development.


The MFP’s of the study area are fuel wood, species of horticultural importance, medicinal plants, fodder grasses, sedges and several species of ethno-botanical importance. This study suggests that locals are dependent on plants for their various needs. However, as seen in Ranvahi, the activities of inhabitants sometimes result in the negative growth of natural resources. The distribution of MFP’s in these forests is characterized by random distribution with two main patterns of population structure. One is represented by greater proportion of individuals in seedling stage indicating suitability of habitat (Devulgaon). Another pattern indicates more individuals in intermediate girth classes, wherein disturbances prevent regeneration, subsequently decrease in number of seedlings (Markegaon and Ranvahi). If such trend continues for longer period, these species may vanish from this area in near future. Hence there is an urgent need of sustainable management practices along with MFP cultivation programmes. A well-defined integrated land-use policy practice should be followed for fulfilment of regular needs and sustainable development of aboriginals.


The authors are thankful to the members of Shodh an NGO at Nagpur and SANDEE (South Asian Network for Developmental Environment Economics), Nepal for giving us this opportunity. We are also grateful to officials and other staff of Forest Department for extending cooperation and support during the forest visits.


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Kumar P, Hate S, Chaturvedi A (2009).
Community based forest management and its impact on vegetation: a case study
iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry 2: 93-98. - doi: 10.3832/ifor0490-002
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Paper ID# ifor0490-002
Title Community based forest management and its impact on vegetation: a case study
Authors Kumar P, Hate S, Chaturvedi A
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