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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2004  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 235-250

Assessing Ecological Sustainability of Non-Timber Forest Produce Extraction: The Indian Scenario

1 Environmental Studies Group, Council for Social Development, 53, Lodi Estate, New Delhi 110 003., India
2 Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012., India

Correspondence Address:
Ghazala Shahabuddin
Environmental Studies Group, Council for Social Development, 53, Lodi Estate, New Delhi 110 003.
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Non-timber forest products (NTFP) are extensively extracted from Indian forests, and their role in rural and forest economies is immense. However, the long-term ecological sustainability of NTFP extraction with respect to resource populations, dependent animal species and ecosystem functioning has remained largely unexamined. In this article NTFP research undertaken in India is reviewed in an attempt to understand issues related to ecological sustainability. There is a glaring scarcity of systematic research on ecological aspects of NTFP extraction in India. From the few available studies, it appears that species differ in their responses to harvest depending on the plant part extracted, natural history attributes and harvesting techniques. However, regeneration and population densities of some NTFP species are reported to be adversely affected by extraction. Such adverse effects, though, cannot be attributed to NTFP harvests alone, but rather to a com­bination of harvests, damaging harvesting practices and accompanying anthro­pogenic disturbances such as fire, grazing and fuel wood collection. There is little information on the long-term indirect effects of NTFP extraction on dependent animal species. The available literature also indicates a disturbing trend of eco­system simplification due to intensive forest use, including extraction of NTFP, which may gradually lead to the weeding out of vulnerable plant species from Indian forests. Much more research is required before it can be clearly understood to what extent and in what ways livelihoods based on NTFP can be compatible with biodiversity conservation.

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