Simplification of Pine Forests Due to Utilization by Tibetan Villages in Southwest China uri icon


  • In China, many rural communities depend upon forests to provide wood, fuel, fertilizer, animal bedding, and valuable non-timber forest products (NTFP). However, the degree to which forest resource extraction is compatible with new conservation aims is unclear because there is little information on the specific ecological effects of traditional forest collecting practices. Therefore, we compared the structure and floristics of Pinus densata forests exposed to three levels of resource extraction by Tibetan villages in northwest Yunnan: (1) a forest site protected from wood and timber removal, (2) moderately utilized forest sites exposed to traditional collecting practices, and (3) patches of highly utilized forest from which timber extraction is high in response to recent development pressures. The results show that understorey and cryptogamic species are reduced in all the utilized forest sites by comparison with the protected forest. However, the moderately utilized pine forests still provide good NTFP habitats by maintaining relatively high canopy covers, litter covers, and understorey structural complexity; this suggests that traditional forest resource use, while simplifying the forest, does not pose an increasing threat to pine forest integrity. By comparison, the highly utilized forests are transformed into open, herb-rich environments in which canopy covers and understorey complexity are depleted, and NTFP habitats are degraded. In the future it may be practical to enhance biodiversity by proscribing forest resource collection, but the immediate priority is to monitor the sustainability of forest utilization using indicators such as understorey development, litter cover, and cryptogamic richness

publication date

  • 2007