Article

Assessment of multifaceted environmental issues and model development of an Indo-Burma hotspot region

Department of Forest Ecology, Biodiversity, and Environmental Sciences, School of Earth Sciences and Natural Resource Management, Mizoram University, Tanhril, Aizawl 796001, India.
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment (Impact Factor: 1.68). 03/2011; 184(1):113-31. DOI: 10.1007/s10661-011-1951-8
Source: PubMed
ABSTRACT
The present article provides a multifaceted critical research review on environmental issues intimately related with the socio-economy of North East India (NE), a part of Indo-Burma hotspot. Further, the article addresses the issue of sustainable development of NE India through diverse ecological practices inextricably linked with traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The biodiversity of NE India comprises endemic floral diversity, particularly medicinal plants of importance to pharmaceutical industry, and unique faunal diversity. Nevertheless, it is very unfortunate that this great land of biodiversity is least explored taxonomically as well as biotechnologically, probably due to geographical and political constraints. Different anthropogenic and socio-economic factors have perturbed the pristine ecology of this region, leading to environmental degradation. Also, the practice of unregulated shifting cultivation (jhooming), bamboo flowering, biological invasions and anthropogenic perturbations to biodiversity exacerbate the gloomy situation. Instead of a plethora of policies, the TEK of NE people may be integrated with modern scientific knowledge in order to conserve the environment which is the strong pillar for socio-economic sector here. The aforesaid approach can be practiced in NE India through the broad implementation and extension of agroforestry practices. Further, case studies on Apatanis, ethnomedicinal plants use by indigenous tribal groups and sacred forests are particularly relevant in the context of conservation of environmental health in totality while addressing the socioeconomic impact as well. In context with the prevailing scenarios in this region, we developed an eco-sustainable model for natural resource management through agroforestry practices in order to uplift the social as well as environmental framework.

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Available from: Prabhat Kumar Rai, Apr 14, 2015
Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
DOI 10.1007/s10661-011-1951-8
Assessment of multifaceted environmental issues
and model development of an Indo-Burma hotspot region
Prabhat Kumar Rai
Received: 30 November 2009 / Accepted: 9 February 2011 / Published online: 5 March 2011
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
Abstract The present article provides a multi-
faceted critical research review on environmental
issues intimately related with the socio-economy
of North East India (NE), a part of Indo-Burma
hotspot. Further, the article addresses the issue of
sustainable development of NE India through di-
verse ecological practices inextricably linked with
traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). The bio-
diversity of NE India comprises endemic floral
diversity, particularly medicinal plants of impor-
tance to pharmaceutical industry, and unique fau-
nal diversity. Nevertheless, it is very unfortunate
that this great land of biodiversity is least explored
taxonomically as well as biotechnologically, prob-
ably due to geographical and political constraints.
Different anthropogenic and socio-economic fac-
tors have perturbed the pristine ecology of this re-
gion, leading to environmental degradation. Also,
the practice of unregulated shifting cultivation
(jhooming), bamboo flowering, biological inva-
sions and anthropogenic perturbations to biodi-
versity exacerbate the gloomy situation. Instead of
a plethora of policies, the TEK of NE people may
P. K. Rai (
B
)
Department of Forest Ecology, Biodiversity,
and Environmental Sciences, School of Earth Sciences
and Natural Resource Management,
Mizoram University, Tanhril, Aizawl 796001, India
e-mail: prabhatrai24@yahoo.co.in
be integrated with modern scientific knowledge in
order to conserve the environment which is the
strong pillar for socio-economic sector here. The
aforesaid approach can be practiced in NE India
through the broad implementation and extension
of agroforestry practices. Further, case studies on
Apatanis, ethnomedicinal plants use by indige-
nous tribal groups and sacred forests are partic-
ularly relevant in the context of conservation of
environmental health in totality while address-
ing the socioeconomic impact as well. In context
with the prevailing scenarios in this region, we
developed an eco-sustainable model for natural
resource management through agroforestry prac-
tices in order to uplift the social as well as environ-
mental framework.
Keywords Biological invasions ·Biodiversity ·
Model development ·Sustainable development ·
Shifting cultivation ·Pristine environment
Introduction
A sustainable development model through the
assessment of different environmental issues of
hotspot regions is the need of the hour as they
are one of the most threatened habitats, lost
more than 70% of their vegetation and impor-
tantly rich in endemic species. As per the 1987
Brundtland Commission Report entitled Our
Page 1
114 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
Common Future, “sustainable development is the
development that meets the needs of present
without compromising the ability of future gen-
erations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable
development indicators may be social, environ-
mental, economic and institutional. Biodiversity
is one of the key environmental sustainability
indicators having an inextricable linkage with
economic, social and institutional sustainability
indicators.
Thus, biodiversity at local, regional and global
level is intimately linked with environment as well
as economy. Plant diversity boosts the economy
by providing food, fibre, timber and non-timber
forest produce, e.g. botano-chemicals, while it
maintains a healthy environment by efficiently
regulating gas and nutrient cycling. The Indian
Subcontinent is one of the ten mega-biodiversity
centres of the world (Rai 2009) particularly rich
in plant resources linked with the human health
and welfare (Rai and Lalramnghinglova 2010a,
b, c, 2011a, b). North East India (NE India)
encompasses a significant portion of Indo-Burma
biodiversity (Fig. 1) hotspot (Myers et al. 2000;
Rai 2009). The biodiversity has been particu-
larly investigated in the context of designing
efficient programs of monitoring biodiversity and
setting out conservation priorities (Gadgil 1985,
1996; Myers 1988; Oliver and Beattie 1993;
Heywood 1995; Balmford and Long 1995;Howard
et al. 1998; Swengel and Swengel 1999; Myers
et al. 2000; Negi and Gadgil 2002; Rai and
Fig. 1 Map to illustrate
the study site (NE India)
and Mizoram, a state of
NE India
Page 2
Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 115
Lalramnghinglova 2010a, b, c, 2011a, b). The
Global Biodiversity Assessment (Heywood 1995)
recommends that such assessment requires a
detailed knowledge of species distribution in
particular landscapes. India’s Biological Diver-
sity Act 2002 aims to promote conservation,
sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits
of India’s biodiversity resources. In this context,
traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and its
implication in the field of agroforestry and
ethno-biology are of special focus particularly
in sites of significant ecological relevance like
NE India, considering its grim scenario due to
diverse environmental perturbations (Rai and
Lalramnghinglova 2010b, 2011a). As per literal
endeavour, “traditional knowledge is a cumulative
body of knowledge, know-how, practices and rep-
resentations maintained and developed by peo-
ples with extended histories of interaction with
the natural environment. These sophisticated sets
of understandings, interpretations and meanings
are a part and parcel of a cultural complex that
encompasses language, naming and classification
systems, resource use practices, ritual, spirituality
and worldview.” Traditional knowledge is sustain-
able in approach as it has evolved after thousands
of years of observation and experience. In to-
tality, community knowledge refers to combined
traditional and scientific knowledge. Therefore,
we need to ensure the full and effective partic-
ipation of traditional knowledge holders during
all stages of sustainable development policies,
plans and programmes alongside the scientific and
technological community (Pandey 1991; Rai and
Lalramnghinglova 2010a).
Study area and site
The Himalayan mountains of NE India are the
youngest and among the most unstable. The study
site NE India (extended between latitudes 21
58
24
45
and 24
35
N and between 92
15
and 93
29
E longitude at an elevation of 850 m above mean
sea level) forms a significant portion of both the
Himalaya and Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots.
The study area, Mizoram, the 23rdstate of the
Indian union, covers an area of 21,087 km
2
and
is sandwiched between Myanmar (Burma) and
Bangladesh (Fig. 1). The vegetation of Mizoram,
according to a proposed classification, is tropi-
cal evergreen and semi-evergreen forest in the
lower-altitude hills and sub-tropical to montane
sub-tropical in the high hills. A major portion of
Mizoram’s forests is therefore tropical evergreen
and semi-evergreen (Champion and Seth 1968;
Rai 2009).
The NE region of India and Mizoram has more
than half of its area under hilly tracts. The re-
lationship between the indigenous people of the
region and the vegetation is both advantageous as
well as detrimental to biodiversity and hence the
environment.
The present proposed review discusses the eco-
logical issues of NE India and the eco-sustainable
model development for this region. Moreover, the
article describes the outcome of a recent research
on bamboo flowering, an important ecological is-
sue of this region.
Methodology
A general survey of the study area and litera-
ture has been done as detailed in Biodiversity
and Unregulated shifting cultivation in NE India:
environmental threat sections. In the Bamboo
flowering and its impact on soil (study on bam-
boo flowering) section, organic carbon was de-
termined according to the Walkley and Black
method, total nitrogen was determined using the
Kjeldahl method, and available phosphate was
extracted using the Bray method. All analyses
were conducted as per the methodology described
elsewhere (Rai 2009). To determine potentially
available nitrogen (NH
4+
and NO
3
), steam distil-
lation method was used. The extent of nitrification
was expressed as the percentage of mineralized
NO
3
in total mineralized nitrogen (Rai 2009).
For the estimation of microbial population and
biomass, a set of three soil samples (0–15-cm
depth) was collected. In this case, the corer was
wiped with absolute ethanol before every inser-
tion to prevent any external microbial conta-
mination. The bacterial and fungal populations
were determined using dilution plate techniques
on nutrient agar and Martin’s medium, respec-
tively. Soil bacterial population was estimated by
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116 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
Waksman’s method using the nutrient agar
medium. Microbial N, C and microbial P were
estimated by chloroform fumigation extraction
method (Rai 2009)
SPSS 11.5 was used for statistical analysis.
Analysis of variance was used to evaluate the im-
pact of bamboo death on soil chemical properties.
LSD at 95% confidence level was used to compare
the mean values across both sites.
Results
In view of natural resource management and
multifaceted concerns, the author emphasizes NE
India as a site of particular ecological relevance.
Apart from the aforesaid issues, we will now sepa-
rately discuss some issues and ecological concerns
prevailing in NE India.
Major issues pertaining to environment
and ecology of NE India
Biodiversity
The biodiversity of NE India encompasses en-
demic floral diversity, particularly medicinal
plants of importance to the pharmaceutical in-
dustry, and unique faunal diversity. However, it
is very unfortunate that this great land of bio-
diversity is least explored taxonomically as well
as biotechnologically (Das 2008), probably due
to geographical and political constraints, which
is further rightly reflected in its slogan for eco-
tourism i.e. ‘NE: The Paradise Unexplored’. Fur-
thermore, it is tragic that the most biodiverse
places are often the most threatened and poorest
economically (Brooks et al. 2006). The debatable
statement ‘Poverty is the biggest polluter’ as re-
marked by former Indian Prime minister Indira
Gandhi at the Stockholm Conference of 1972 may
be relevant in the context of NE India. There-
fore, poverty is the prime cause of natural re-
source and hence environmental degradation in
this region. However, as discussed elsewhere in
this article, poor people also assist in environmen-
tal conservation through the protection of sacred
groves. In NE India, nearly 80% of the popula-
tion depend on agriculture, where the economy is
predominantly agrarian and rural, where tribal
with subsistence living constitute about 27% of
the population and where nearly 87% of the popu-
lation live a deprived life in nearly 43,000 villages.
Tea plantations and felling of trees for timber,
firewood, paper pulp, etc., are some of the major
commercial activities which adversely affected the
Himalayan forests (Singh and Singh 1987).
In the NE Himalayas, subsistence largely de-
pends upon resources derived from natural forests
due to the free and easy access to these and
simplicity in their use (Chettri and Sharma 2007).
The famous quotation “You cannot eat the trees,
you eat rice” is completely applicable to NE India.
So, the poor and rural people of this region cut
the trees and overexploit the wildlife resources.
Therefore, it is very difficult to safeguard the
environment when people are hungry. Tropical
deforestation experienced in this region over the
last few decades has raised a concern among aca-
demics and practitioners over its implication for
global environmental change, biodiversity conser-
vation and sustainable development.
Unregulated shifting cultivation in NE India:
environmental threat
Different anthropogenic and socio-economic fac-
tors have perturbed the pristine ecology of NE
India, leading to degradation of the environ-
ment and the natural resources (Lianzela 1997;
Pandey 1998;Rai2008). Particularly, the prac-
tice of unregulated shifting cultivation (jhoom-
ing) exacerbates the gloomy situation. Shifting
agriculture or slash-and-burn agriculture is locally
called "jhooming." Practiced since time immemo-
rial (originating during Neolithic times), it is still
the major form of agriculture in the NE Himalaya.
Practiced by about half a million tribal families,
it affects about 2.7 million hectares, and about
0.45 million hectares remain under shifting culti-
vation per year. This accounts for 85% of the land
cultivated each year. Normally, shifting cultiva-
tion involves: (1) forest cutting during December–
January, (2) burning of the slashed forest after
removing tree trunks and large branches during
mid-February to mid-March, (3) cultivation of
crops in April–May (cereals, vegetables and oil-
yielding crops) in various mixes, (4) shifting to
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Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 117
another forest site and (5) returning to the orig-
inal site (in earlier times after 20–30 years, but
currently—owing to population pressure—after
5 years or even less (Singh and Singh 1987)).
In NE India, shifting cultivation is a major
land use that is practiced by almost all of the
tribal groups (Ramakrishnan 1993). There is wide
recognition across the globe, and disciplines, that
regions of ecological relevance like NE India ex-
hibit a symbiotic relationship between their habi-
tat and the culture within (Ramakrishnan 2001).
Moreover, jhoom practice among the various
tribes of Mizoram is closely linked with the socio-
cultural life of the people. Various festivals are
organized on the onset of jhooming as well as
at the time of harvesting of crops. Henceforth,
shifting cultivation could be said to have evolved
as a response to the special physiographic char-
acters of the land and the economy and socio-
cultural traditions of the cultivators practicing
it (Ramakrishnan 1993, 2001). Earlier, shifting
cultivation was supposed to be a form of sus-
tainable use of forest ecosystems while cul-
tivators had plenty of forest areas available
(Ramakrishnan 2001). However, today, this form
of cultivation accounts for about 61% of the
total tropical forest destruction, thus posing
socio-economic constraints. Further, it leads to
biological invasions hampering the native for-
est resources (Gupta and Mukherjee 1994;
Raman 2001). Moreover, under the strain of in-
creasing population pressure, the fallow period
became drastically reduced and the system de-
generated, resulting in serious soil erosion and
decline in the soil’s fertility and productivity
(Ramakrishnan et al. 1996). The tribal cultivators
of NE India replaced traditional jhooming with
non-traditional jhooming as their source of liveli-
hood (Arunachalam et al. 2002).
The net decrease in forest cover due to shift-
ing cultivation in NE India was estimated to be
387 km
2
between 1989 and 1991, 448 km
2
between
1991 and 1993 and 175 km
2
between 1993 and
1995 (Satapathy and Bujarbaruah 2006). During
this period, the rate of forest loss has declined
in the NE states such as Arunachal Pradesh and
Meghalaya, increased in Nagaland and Manipur
and fluctuated in other states (Satapathy and
Bujarbaruah 2006).
In 1957, the Food and Agricultural Organisa-
tion (FAO) officially condemned shifting culti-
vation as a waste of land and human resources
and as a major cause of soil erosion and defor-
estation. Traditional shifting cultivation was able
to maintain subsistence crop yields at a low but
sustained level for centuries–if fallow length was
respected. In the tropics, where rain and sunshine
are abundant throughout the year, a secondary
forest develops wherever cultivated land has been
forsaken for a long period. Notwithstanding, the
practice causes a severe loss of biological diversity.
Moreover, in an area of high demographic growth
and increasing land shortages (like Aizawl, the
capital city of Mizoram, NE India), intensification
of the slash-and-burn system can be highly detri-
mental. Intensified land use under shifting cultiva-
tion not only increases invasive weed biomass but
also changes the weed species composition, hence
difficult to control (Rai 2009). The creation of sec-
ondary forests composed of a few dominant colo-
nizing plant species, bamboo thickets and thatch
grasslands has adversely affected plant diversity
(Gupta 2000). Plant diversity is also affected by
the almost total cessation of the natural regenera-
tion of shade-loving species of Orchidaceae and
Dipterocarpaceae following changes in the light
regimes on the forest floor due to wide openings
in the canopies created by large-scale jhoom clear-
ings (Gupta 2000).
In a nutshell, the general impact of unregu-
lated shifting cultivation in the tropics altered the
landscapes that were once large tracts of ever-
green dense primary forests into fragmented mo-
saics of small habitat islands of degraded primary
forests, secondary forests and low-quality bamboo
forests (Rai 2009). The frequent periodic clearing
of forests as in non-traditional jhooming creates
an ecosystem where secondary plant species are
totally different from the parent forest (Rai 2009).
These changes in habitat also affect forest re-
sources (Arunachalam et al. 2002), animals, birds
and microorganisms (Raman 2001). After slash-
and-burn agriculture (jhoom) at lower elevations
in NE India, the secondary succession passes from
an herbaceous weedy community to a bamboo
forest (Rai 2009). During the intervening fallow
period, the vegetation grows back through the
‘succession’ (Raman 2001;Rai2009). In NE India,
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118 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
where shifting cultivation is a common practice, a
typical fallow period theoretically lasts for about
10 years.
Some ecologists have suggested that jhoom
may increase biodiversity because it creates new
habitats, while others see it as a largely destructive
practice (Raman 2001). Several workers (Singh
and Singh 1987; Raman 2001) addressed this de-
bate by measuring the change and recovery of
plant and bird communities after shifting culti-
vation. One group of researchers (Raman 2001)
from the Wildlife Institute of India concluded that
jhoom cultivation leads to the invasion of wide-
spread bird species at the expense of forest species
that are often rare or restricted in range. They
recommended that, to avoid substantial changes
in natural communities, jhoom cycles would need
to be at least 25 years (for birds) to 50 years
(for vegetation) as the current 8–10-year cycles
are clearly inadequate to conserve forest bird and
plant communities.
Due to excessive non-traditional jhooming,for-
est area and vegetation cover have shrunk by
about 22.9% and 12.4%, respectively, in the last
40 years in Tripura, a NE state (Gupta 2000).
According to Gupta (2000), open, less diverse,
moist and dry mixed deciduous secondary forests
have replaced the dense primary forests of NE
India due to the shifting cultivation with reduced
fallow period. Repeated jhooming on short fallow
rotation coupled with grazing and other human
disturbances (encroachment, overexploitation for
timber, fuel wood, fodder and construction mate-
rials, etc.) has arrested secondary succession at the
seral community stages, favouring weed infesta-
tion, loss of accumulation of woody biomass and
reduction of floral diversity. It has also resulted
in the creation of Imperata cylindrica grasslands
and degraded bamboo forests (Gupta 2000;Rai
2009).
As far as soil physico-chemical parameters
change pertaining to the aforesaid practice is con-
cerned before the forest is cleared for jhooming,
a closed nutrient cycle exists in the soil–forest
system. Within this system, most nutrients are
stored in the biomass and topsoil, and a constant
cycle of nutrient transfer from one compartment
of the system to another operates through the
physical and biological processes of rainwash (i.e.
foliage leaching), litter fall, root decomposition
and plant uptake. However, clearing and burning
the vegetation leads to a disruption of this closed
nutrient cycle. During the burning operation, the
soil temperature increases and, afterwards, more
radiation falling on the bare soil surface results in
the higher soil and air temperature. This change in
the temperature regime causes changes in biolog-
ical activity in the soil. The addition of ash to the
soil through burning causes important changes in
soil chemical properties and organic matter con-
tent (Stromgaard 1991). In general, exchangeable
bases and available phosphorus increase slightly
after burning; pH values also increase, but usu-
ally temporarily. Burning is also expected to in-
crease organic matter content mainly because
of the unburnt vegetation left behind (Yadava
and Devi 2004, 2005; Devi and Yadava 2007).
Yadava and Devi (2004) reported higher values
of C, N, P and microbial biomass than the native
forest site in the immediate slash-and-burnt site of
Manipur, NE India. The rate of ammonification
and N mineralisation were also recorded to be
higher in the slash-and-burnt site as compared to
the protected forest site (Yadava and Devi 2005;
Devi and Yadava 2007). These changes in the
soil after clearing and burning result in a sharp
increase of available nutrient, but in the following
years it declines significantly. The main reasons
for the decline in crop yields are soil fertility de-
pletion, increased weed infestation, deterioration
of soil physical properties and increased insect
and disease attacks. Ramakrishnan (1992) stud-
ied the effect of jhoom on soil fertility at high
elevations of Meghalaya, NE India, using 15, 10
and 5 years of jhoom cycles and found that longer
fallows gave greater improvement in humus and
nutrients.
Nevertheless, in view of current demographic,
economic and land use patterns in NE states, it
will be too ambitious an attempt to revert to tra-
ditional shifting cultivation. Also, such traditional
practices are further linked with their culture
and sentiments. Moreover, most of the human
population depends on shifting agriculture in the
Page 6
Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 119
NE region. We only have to find out alternate
ways, which have been attempted in the develop-
ment of a hypothetical growth model.
Bamboo flowering and its impact on soil
Bamboo is a predominant understory species in
the forest ecosystems of NE India. Out of the 150
species of bamboo available in India, 58 species
are present in NE India (Rai 2009). Bamboo is an
important commercial source for a variety of pur-
poses, such as manufacture of paper, construction
of houses, bridges, furniture, bags and baskets,
and is also utilized, although to a limited extent, as
fuel and fodder (Singh and Singh 1999;Rai2009).
Bhattetal.(2003) also mentioned the various
economic importance of bamboo in the form of
food (young shoot), timber and as agricultural
implements (culms and branches) in three states
(Mizoram, Meghalaya and Sikkim) of NE India.
Bamboo is also inextricably linked with the tradi-
tional culture of peoples of NE states, particularly
Mizoram, and various festivals are based on it with
the performance of bamboo dance (Rai 2009).
Therefore, in the real sense, bamboo is the poor
man’s timber in the NE states of India.
Bamboo shows a characteristic simultaneous
mass flowering after long intervals of several
decades. Bamboo species flower suddenly and
simultaneously. Then, all the flower clumps die,
leading to drastic changes in forest dynamics and
environmental conditions, for example, light in-
tensity, seedling survival, organic matter decom-
position and nutrient cycling, although complete
destruction of bamboo clumps requires another
few years (7). Bamboo communities follow active
nutrient cycling and their vigorous growth and lit-
ter production ameliorate nutrient-impoverished
coal mine spoil and tropical soil fertility (Rao
and Ramakrishnan 1989; Singh and Singh 1999;
Mailly et al. 1997; Takahashi et al. 2007;Rai2009).
However, after mass flowering and death, nutrient
uptake by the bamboo ceases and large amounts
of dead organic matter are deposited.
One menace occurred from 2005 to 2007 in NE
India in the form of famine, resulting due to the
increase in the numerical strength of rodents after
synchronous bamboo flowering.
During this period (October 2007), Rai (2009)
investigated the soil properties before (live bam-
boo, i.e. LB site) and after bamboo flowering
(dead bamboo i.e. DB site) in Mizoram, NE India.
The LB site comprised non-flowering stands of
Bambusa tulda, Bambusa khasiana and Dendro-
calamus hamiltonii, whereas the flowering stands
of Melocanna baccifera syn. bambusoides (com-
mon name moutak, i.e. death causing because of
associated famine and plague) were present at
the DB site along the slope gradient. Because
flowering is simultaneous, utmost care was taken
to differentiate the flowering stands of M. bac-
cifera from other live or non-flowering bamboo
species.
Bamboo flowering and death lead to decline in
nutrient status and microbial population (Fig. 2;
Table 1). High nutrient concentrations (CNP)
recorded in microbial biomass at DB site re-
vealed that microbial biomass acts as source
and sink for plant nutrients in nutrient poor
ecosystems. Higher nutrient status and microbial
Fig. 2 Soil organic C content (g Kg
1
), total N content
(g Kg
1
), available N content (mg Kg
1
), nitrification rate
(%) and available P content (mg Kg
1
) at live and dead
bamboo (LB and DB) sites (average of five replicates).
(source, Rai 2009, Ambio)
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120 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
Table 1 Soil microbial population and CNP (carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus) content in microbial biomass (after Rai 2009,
Ambio)
Site Population Biomass (μgg
1
)
Bacteria (number of Fungi (number of C N P
colonies × 10
5
g
1
colonies × 10
3
g
1
dry soil) dry soil)
LB site 13.596 67.889 248.561 176.891 6.443
DB site 6.937 77.899 376.931 233.00 7.982
LSD at 0.05 level 1.63 23.9 179.88 63.00 2.70
population at LB stands offer its scope for
reclamation of nutrient-impoverished agroecosys-
tems/agroforestry systems, particularly those that
have undergone shifting cultivation with less fal-
low period. Individual bamboo species impact
should also be monitored in future researches.
Henceforth, Rai (2009) recommended that further
study is needed to completely analyse and under-
stand the consequences of bamboo death on soil
parameters, microbial biomass and nutrient cycling.
Discussion
As we have discussed the different ecological
threats or perturbations in the previous sections,
the present section deals with several points to
address them in an eco-sustainable manner. In
other words, the forthcoming section deals with
the eco-management of the natural resources.
Implication of traditional ecological knowledge
Instead of a plethora of policies, the TEK of NE
Indian people may be integrated with scientific
knowledge in order to conserve the environmen-
tal resources which are the strong pillar for the
socio-economic sector here. The TEK of indige-
nous people became a major focus of attention
within the past decade. The TEK is also increas-
ingly recognized as a form of rational and reli-
able knowledge developed through generations
of intimate contact by native people with their
lands, which has equal status with scientific knowl-
edge. TEK and wisdom are highly sensitive to the
changing relationships between people and their
ecological resource bases. However, the TEK and
wisdom, with their detailed locality and time-
specific content, are of value in many contexts.
They must, therefore, be supported by creating
new contexts for their continued practice.
Case studies on TEK (Apatanis,sacredforests,
ethnobotany and agroforestry) in the ecological
conservation of NE India
As mentioned earlier, NE India is rich in the
diversity of cultures and traditional knowledge
systems that have co-evolved with biodiversity in
the region (Ramakrishnan et al. 2002). In the case
of sacred forests, Apatanis, ethnomedicinal plant’s
use and agroforestry practice as an alternate to
shifting cultivation will now be discussed in this
section.
Sacred groves in NE India The sacred forests
(groves) of this region, conserved due to religious
sentiments by tribal people, are as ancient as civi-
lization itself and they greatly aid in the conserva-
tion of plants (Mishra et al. 2004).
Also, these sacred groves harbour a great deal
of biodiversity. In this context, Jamir and Pandey
(2003) studied the diversity of vascular plants in
three sacred groves of the Jaintia Hills in NE
India. They recorded about 395 species, 250 gen-
era and 108 families comprising pteridophytes,
gymnosperms and angiosperms in the groves. Fur-
ther, Orchidaceae, Rubiaceae, Asteraceae and
Lauraceae were dominant families and Ficus was
the largest genus, with nine species. Similarly,
about 160 tree species were distributed in canopy,
subcanopy and under-canopy strata of the for-
est. The concentration of tropical and temper-
ate elements of the neighbouring Sino-Himalayan
and Burma-Malayan regions and the endemic
(54 species), rare (31 species) and primitive taxa
(38 species) due to favourable climatic conditions
and prolonged protection have contributed to the
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Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 121
high species richness of the groves. Their better
management and protection are important for the
conservation of plant diversity in the region and
also for the benefit of the indigenous tribes of
the state. Further, Upadhaya et al. (2003) inves-
tigated the biodiversity of woody species in Ialong
and Raliang sacred groves of the Jaintia hills in
Meghalaya, NE India. These groves represented
the climax subtropical broad-leaved forest of the
area. The results of the aforesaid study demon-
strated a total of 738 individuals belonging to
82 species, 59 genera and 39 families in a 0.5-ha
plot of the Ialong sacred grove, whereas the same
area in the Raliang sacred grove had 469 indi-
viduals of 80 species, 62 genera and 41 families.
Likewise, 32% of species were found common to
both groves and Lauraceae, with 10–17 species
found to be the dominant family. The dominance–
distribution curves showed high equitability and
low dominance in both groves.
However, it is very unfortunate that the natural
resources lying in the sacred groves of Meghalaya
and other NE states are rapidly being depleted
due to the increased intensity of anthropogenic
disturbances. Plants used in primary healthcare in
NE India are mostly drawn from sacred groves
(Table 1 lists some important generalized medi-
cinal plants of NE India). However, in place of
floral diversity, particularly medicinal plants, most
of the protected areas, except Tipi Orchid Sanc-
tuary, have a focused attention on the preserva-
tion of faunal diversity (Dhyani and Kala 2005).
Therefore, conservation priorities should be con-
centrated at the ecosystem level instead of at the
species level (Dhyani and Kala 2005).
Case of Apatanis in Arunachal Pradesh One
other well-known example of TEK that can be
cited is wet rice cultivation of the Apatanis,which
is a unique and highly integrated land use sys-
tem in the State Arunachal Pradesh of NE India
(Ramakrishnan et al. 2002). Further, the inven-
tory of medicinal plants used by the Apatani by
Kala (2005) opened new avenues to scrutinize
such a rich natural resource for further analysis in
order to develop the potential of herbal medicine.
Use of ethno-medicinal plants for human welfare
Ethnomedicinal knowledge is extremely impor-
tant from a humanitarian point of view in that,
in the long run, this knowledge may help to iden-
tify important medicinal uses that can help in
curing and healthcare around the world (Singh
et al. 2002; Rai and Lalramnghinglova 2011b).
The tribes of the Himalayan region also have
rich ethnomedicinal traditions for which a few
literatures are available (Biswas 1956; Bennet
1983; Yonzone et al. 1984; Srivastava et al. 1987;
Venu et al. 1990; Pandey 1991; Rai and Sharma
1994; Rai et al. 1998; Rai and Bhujel 1999, 2002;
Rai and Lalramnghinglova 2010a, b, c, 2011a, b).
Table 2 lists some of the important pharmacological
Table 2 Medicinal plants found locally in NE India and its
pharmaceutical products
Industrial products Name of plants
Ajmaline Sarpagandha (Rauvlofia serpentina)
Ajmalicine Nayantora (Catharanthus roseus),
Sarpagandha
Atropine Bishalyakarani (Atropa belladona);
Dhatura (Datura stramonium)
Caffeine Chahgoch (Camellia sinensis)
Citronellal Javacitronala or Ganbirina
(Cymbopogon winterianus)
Citronellol Javacitronala or Ganbirina
Colchicine Agnisikha or Uluchandan
(Gloriosa superba)
Cucurmin Haldhi (Curcuma longa)
Dimethyloctane Javacitronala
Eugenol Dalchini, Tejapat etc.
(Cinnamomum spp.)
Geraniol Geranium (Pelargonium
graveolens)
Hyoscyamine Bishyalakarani
L-Dopa Bandar kekoa (Mucuna prurita)
Linalool Podina (Mentha citrata)
Linalyl acetate Podina (Mentha citrata)
Marsilin Pani tengeshi (Marselia minuta)
Menthol Podina (Mentha spp.)
Papain Omita (Carica papaya)
Rescinnamine Sarpagandha
Reserpine Sarpagandha
Strychnine Mekuri Kendu (Strychnos
enux-vomica)
Theobromine Chahgoch
Theophylline Chahgoch
Vetiverol Birina (Vetiveria zizanioides)
Vetiveryl acetate Birina
Vinblastin Nayantora or Periwinkle
(Catharanthus roseus)
Vincristine Nayantora or Periwinkle
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122 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
applications derived from the ethnomedicinal
plants of NE India.
Plants synthesize a diverse set of phytochemi-
cals, but most are derivatives of a few biochemical
motifs, e.g. alkaloids contain a ring with nitro-
gen, phenolics contain phenol ring, terpenoids and
glycosides. Therefore, the phyto-chemistry of eth-
nomedicinal plants is exploited in providing med-
ical services to people, particularly in third-world
countries (Rai and Lalramnghinglova 2011b).
Lalramnghinghlova (2003) and as well as
Lalramnghinghlova and Jha (1998) together de-
scribed more than 200 ethnomedicinal plants for
their efficiency to cure diseases like bleeding from
nose, fever, malarial fever, asthma, tuberculo-
sis, calculi, stones in kidney, gall-bladder, urinary
troubles, hypertension, diabetes, stomachache,
stomach ulcer, dysentery, diarrhoea, jaundice, he-
patomegaly, fracture of bone, gyneic disorder
and snake bite (Table 3). They added that over
60% of people living in the interior parts of the
state depend upon herbal medicine. Table 3 lists
some of the important ethnomedicinal plants of
Mizoram being used by tribal peoples and hence
intimately linked with their inherited TEK. Fur-
ther, Lalramnghinghlova and Jha (1997) identified
and hand in hand characterized the ethnomedi-
cinal plants based on IUCN threat categories.
Also, Lalramnghinghlova and Jha (1999), during
their extensive survey of ethnomedicinal plants,
provided new records of the aforesaid, which
has not been reported earlier in the forests of
Mizoram. Lalramnghinghlova (1999a,b) marked
that, although more works have been undertaken
on ethnobotany, very less focus has been given to
ethnozoology which is very necessary in order to
address ethnobiology in its totality.
Lalramnghinghlova (2003) exhaustively sur-
veyed and identified around 250 ethno-medicinal
plants of Mizoram. Table 3 lists some of these
ethno-medicinal plants used by various tribal
groups. However, complete preparation of medi-
cinal plant database is still lacking for NE India,
particularly in relation to the categorization of
threatened plants as per IUCN (Table 4). Like-
wise, the identification as well as the conser-
vation of rare and threatened medicinal plants
is very urgent and, particularly, biotechnological
tools may be developed for their restoration. Fur-
ther, a more focussed molecular and biochemical
approach may be adopted for a detailed charac-
terization of medicinal plants.
Alternate of shifting cultivation Shifting cultiva-
tion, which is the prime concern of policy-makers
in the context of natural resource management,
cannot sustain for the long term because the
increasing population, in the absence of an abun-
dant supply of land, is bound to shorten the
cycle of shifting cultivation, bringing about con-
tinuous deterioration in soil fertility and ecologi-
cal changes. Studies conducted in the Philippines,
Gambia, Malawi, Zambi, and India (Ganguly
1968;Saha1970) reveal that the land carrying
capacity under shifting cultivation is very low—
about six persons per square kilometer. There-
fore, conservation of biodiversity will largely
depend on creating conditions to revert to tra-
ditional long-fallow shifting cultivation, finding
suitable alternatives to such farming practices or
a combination of both. In view of the earlier-
mentioned demographic, economic, and land use
patterns in NE states, it may be too ambitious
to attempt to ban traditional shifting cultivation.
The efforts of the government to control forest
resources could not be enforced against the strong
local needs of subsistence and income generation.
Therefore, the best solutions may lie in finding
suitable alternatives that would make an appro-
priate balance between socio-economic consider-
ations and natural resource management.
In order to remove the ecological and economic
constraints imposed due to non-traditional shift-
ing cultivation, TEK and scientific approach can
be practiced in an integrated way in NE India
through the broad implementation and extension
of agroforestry practices on jhoom lands.
Agroforestry is a collective name for land use
systems and technologies where woody perennials
(trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.) are deliber-
ately used on the same land management units as
agricultural crops and/or animals in some form of
spatial arrangement or temporal sequence. Com-
munity forestry, farm forestry and social forestry
in a nutshell describe the “tree growing by the
people, for the people” and, in general, all these
terminologies encompass agroforestry concepts
and technologies. In agroforestry systems, there
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Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 123
Table 3 List of ethnomedicinal plants recorded in Mizoram, NE India (source, Lalramnghinghlova 2003)
Diseases/ailments Name of medicinal plant Local name
Ethno-medicinal Eupatorium cannabinum Hlothar
Curculigo grassifolia
Callicarpa arborea Hnahkiah
Mikania micrantha Japan-hlo
Lasianthus hirsutas Changneithing
Musa spp Changel
Fever and malaria Heyotes scandens Kelhnamtur/Laikingtuibur
Justicia adhatoda Kawldai
Picrasma javanica Thingdamdawi
Swertia angustifolia Khawsik damdawi
Vitex peduncularis Thingkhawilu
Asthma and tuberculosis Goniothalamus sesquipedalis Khâm
Stemona tuberose Kalmam
Calculi, stones in kidney/gall bladder Costus speciosus Sum-bul
Hedyotis scandens Kelhnamtur
Lobelia angulata Choakthi
Mimosa pudica and Mimosa invisa Hlonuar and Hlonuarvar
Kidney and urinary troubles Scoparia dulcis Perhpawngchaw
Combination of Desmos chinensis and Desmos dumosa Zunin damdawi
Begonia spp. Sekhupthur
High blood pressure Alstonia scholaris Thuamriat
Centella asiatica Hnahbial/Lambak
Clerodendrum colebrookianum Phuihnam
Diabetes Picrasma javancia Thingdamdawi
Phyllanthus fraternus Mitthisunhlu
Combination of Plantago erosa and Kelbe-an
Lobelia angulata and Choakthi
Inula cappa Buarthau
Stomachache, colic and stomach ulcer Aporusa octandra Chhawntual
Baccaurea ramiflora Pangkai
Helicia robusta Sialhma
Saraca asoca Mualhawih
Diarrhoea and dysentery Chikrassia tabularis Zawngtei
Dillenia indica Kawrthindeng
Scoparia dulcis Perhpawngchaw
Jaundice and hepatomegaly Gmelina arborea Thlanvawng
Mallotus roxburgiana Zawngtenawhlung
Fracture of bone Combination of Rhaphidophora decursiva and Tu-bâl
Pathos jambea and Lehpong (Bru)
Angiopteris evecta and Kawk-sa-kê
Callicarpa macrophylla Hnahkiah
Ethno-gynaecology Chonemorpha fragrans Phungtheikelki
Elaeagnus caudata Sarzukpui
Saraca asoca Mualhawih
Cancer Combination of Claoxylon hassianum and Nagabang (Bru)
Celerodendrum wallichii and Trabuta (Bru)
Mussaenda macrophylla and Va-kep
Phlogacanthus thyrsiformis and Khumtiangkohha (Bru)
Thevesia pamata Chapau (Bru)
Snake bite Mussaenda macrophylla Mussaenda macrophylla
Insect bite Schima wallichii Khiang
Ethno-veterinary Congea tomentosa Huaibawkhrui
Erythrina stricta Fartuahpui
Dillenia pentagyna Kaihzawl
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124 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
Table 4 Statewise number of threatened and total taxa evaluated from four states of NE India (source, Ved et al. 2005)
Assigned Red List category Arunachal Pradesh Assam Meghalaya Sikkim Total taxa
Critically endangered 6 1 4 1 9
Endangered 12 8 7 8 22
Vulnerable 17 7 13 12 26
Threatened taxa 35 16 24 21 46
Near-threatened 8 1 2 2 10
Least 3 2 1 2 6
Data deficient 1 3 5 9 11
Total taxa assessed 47 22 32 34 50
are both ecological and economic interactions be-
tween the different components. The mixture of
crops grown in agroforestry is so evolved that
the root systems of different plants reach out to
varying depths. In this way, different crops are
able to use the nutrients of different layers of
the soil in the field. In contrast, all plants under
the monoculture system (common in conventional
shifting cultivation) draw up from the same strata.
Secondly, the varieties of plants in the jhoom sys-
tem are arranged in a multi-storied pattern so that
the leaf area of all vegetation in the field together
is extraordinarily large. This helps in harvesting
the solar energy much more efficiently than in
a mono-crop area. The multi-storied pattern also
provides a better cover for the land against soil
erosion. Further, the aforesaid monoculture pat-
tern may be more prone to pest attack when com-
pared to the multiple cropping pattern followed in
agroforestry.
Agroforestry: prospects and potential
for sustainable development of NE India
Various approaches have been suggested as alter-
natives and/or improvements to shifting cultiva-
tion (FAO 1985), and most of them emphasize
the importance of retaining or incorporating the
woody vegetation into the fallow phase and even
in the cultivation phase as the key to the mainte-
nance of soil productivity (Nair 1993). However,
suitable eco-friendly methods are to be applied for
true and all-round agricultural development in the
hills. Depending on the ways in which the woody
species are incorporated, the alternate land use
system can be agroforestry (Nair 1993).
Agroforestry is a collective name for land use
systems and technologies where woody perennials
(trees, shrubs, palms, bamboos, etc.) are deliber-
ately used on the same land management units
as agricultural crops and/or animals in some form
of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence. In
agroforestry systems, there are both ecological
and economic interactions between the different
components (Nair 1993). Community forestry,
farm forestry and social forestry in a nutshell de-
scribe the “tree growing by the people, for the
people.” In general, these terminologies all en-
compass agroforestry concepts and technologies
(Nair 1993). The mixture of crops grown in agro-
forestry is so evolved that the root systems of
different plants reach out to varying depths. In this
way, different crops are able to use the nutrients
in the different layers of the soil in the field. In
contrast, all plants under the monoculture sys-
tem (common in conventional shifting cultivation)
draw up from the same strata. In addition, the va-
rieties of plants in the jhoom system are arranged
in a multi-storied pattern so that the leaf area of all
vegetation in the field together is extraordinarily
large. This helps in harvesting the solar energy
much more efficiently than in a mono-crop area.
The multistoried pattern also provides a better
cover for the land against soil erosion. Further,
the aforesaid monoculture pattern may be more
prone to pest attack when compared to the mul-
tiple cropping pattern followed in agroforestry.
There is a wide scope of sloppy land develop-
ment and management in the hilly region with the
application of agronomical, mechanical soil and
water conservation measures and intervention of
agroforestry systems. The soil conservation mea-
sures and agroforestry systems are to be gener-
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Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 125
ally planned and taken up in the areas retrieved
from jhooming to provide protective cover to the
barren lands. These will help in the prevention of
soil erosion, improving water regime particularly
of the catchments areas and general restoration
of the balance of the ecology of nature (Sonowal
et al. 2006). Tiwari and Jha (1995) surveyed 22 wa-
tersheds in Mizoram. These have been placed in
three classes, i.e. low priority, high priority or very
high priority as per the requirement of swift soil
conservation measures. Effective planning, devel-
opment and utilization of all natural resources in
hills towards sustainable production are possible
on the basis of watershed programmes aimed to
check soil erosion and improve soil fertility and
productivity (Satapathy and Bujarbaruah 2006).
Further, TEK, as discussed earlier in the text,
may also encourage agroforestry approaches in
an effective and systematic way. For instance,
TEK was integrated into institution building in the
sustainable management of the traditional slash-
and-burn agroecosystem in the state of Nagaland
in NE India. The traditional tribal societies of
Nagaland in NE India organize nutrient-use-
efficient crop species on the upper slopes and
less efficient species along the lower slopes, cor-
responding to the soil fertility gradient of a steep
slope. By shortening the shifting agricultural cycle,
the farmer tends to place emphasis on tubers and
vegetable crops rather than cereals with longer
cycles. Operating a mixed cropping system, where
species are sown simultaneously following the first
rain during the monsoon, the farmer harvests
crops one after the other as they mature over a
period of a few months. After the harvest, the bio-
mass is recycled into the agricultural plot. Weed
biomass taken from the plots are put back into
the system; about 20% of weed biomass serves
an important nutrient conservation role on the
hill slope, which would otherwise be lost through
leaching processes. Socially selected species of tra-
ditional agricultural systems and those from nat-
ural systems often have an ecologically significant
keystone value; these keystone species often play
a major role in the nutrient enrichment of soil.
Traditional eco-technologies, such as systems for
water harvesting during the monsoon period, have
been shown to be of value in altering biological
processes in soil and thus improving soil fertility
(Ramakrishnan 1992).
There should be an inextricable link between
plants and animals in agroecosystems. Animal
husbandry with fish or prawn aquaculture may
be an integral component of agroforestry in NE
India. Livestock management, e.g. pig and bee
culture, may also be practiced in agroforestry sys-
tems. Animal husbandry is an important compo-
nent of the local economy and the status of a
tribal family is often also assessed on the basis
of the number of animals of its own (Satapathy
and Bujarbaruah 2006). By pollinating the diverse
groups of plants, bees perform vital and often
unappreciated roles. At least 30% of our agri-
cultural crops require the movement of pollen,
mediated by bees, between flowers. We are de-
pendent upon these “forgotten pollinators” for
most of what we eat. Furthermore, in agroforestry,
selective breeding of livestock for meat extrac-
tion may prevent the frequent hunting of wildlife,
leading to their extinction. Concomitantly, animal
husbandry in agroforestry systems may boost the
socioeconomic status of peoples, e.g. breeding of
pig is particularly popular in Mizoram and it pro-
vides a sound contribution to the economy.
Similarly, agroforestry may be teak-based,
Subabul-based, fruits mixed with subabul, medi-
cinal plants mixed with subabul, bamboo-based
agroforestry, Hedgerow cropping, coffee-based
agroforestry, sole banana-based cropping and
medicinal plant-based, which further ameliorate
the socio-economic sector. Medicinal plant culti-
vation has many more advantages as this practice
brings economic benefit to the community while
also addressing conservation concerns (Chettri
and Sharma 2007). Jha and Lalnunmawia (2003)
studied the ecological and economic aspect of
bamboo- and ginger-based agroforestry system.
Lalramnghinghlova and Jha (1996) mentioned
prominent multipurpose trees in the farming
system of Mizoram. Such sort of studies in the
context of agroforestry systems need focused at-
tention and further work in this direction. Home
gardens are very common and an age-old practice
of agroforestry in every village of NE India, which
may be encouraged further. A home garden is
an assemblage of plants which may include trees,
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126 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
shrubs, bamboos and herbaceous plants in or ad-
jacent to a home or home compound. Banana,
papaya, mango, breach, plum, jack fruit, pineap-
ple and some other domesticated wild fruits and
vegetables are commonly cultivated in home gar-
dens. Fodder and fuel trees are also planted in
a home garden for home consumption through-
out the year. Besides, a number of the home
gardens grow rare and endangered orchids (epi-
phytic and ground/terrestrial), medicinal plants
(both as vegetables and medicinal and wild fruit
plants (both lianas and trees). A live fence of
different species (both thorny and non-thorny) is
planted around the orchard to provide protection
from livestock and for additional production and
risk diversification. The species widely planted for
this purpose are: Erythrina indica, Gliricidia sp,
Thysanolaena maxima, Emblica officinales, etc.
Large cardamom (Amomum subulatum)isthe
most important native cash crop of Sikkim (Singh
et al. 2002) in agroforestry systems of NE India
and traditional agroforestry systems also encom-
pass different economic crops (Rai et al. 1994,
1997, 2002). Therefore, agroecosystems as well
as natural ecosystems harbour immense genetic
potential (Lalramnghinghlova 1999a, b, c, d, e,
2000, 2001, 2002a, b).
Future research prospects in NE India:
development of sustainable growth model
The World Conservation Strategy recognizes that
the concept of biodiversity conservation is closely
linked with sustainable development of both hu-
man and natural resources. In the Himalayas, sub-
sistence largely depends upon resources derived
from natural forests due to free and easy access to
these and the simplicity in their use. The change in
land use pattern, resource exploitation and weak
conservation measures have evoked a concern for
sustainability of such resources due to the growth
in population and fragmentation of farm families.
Ecological integrity is to be maintained not only to
meet human needs but also to achieve equity with
social justice and provision for the maintenance
of cultural diversity. Conservation of biological di-
versity cannot be achieved in isolation without ad-
dressing the needs of the large human populations
who are totally dependent on various forestry and
wildlife resources for their survival. The problem
is further compounded by the failure on the part
of managers to transfer the benefits of techno-
logical advances and economic development to
the people in socially and culturally acceptable
forms. Shifting cultivation prevalent in NE India
and different socio-economic constraints are
definitely detrimental to the conservation of bio-
logical diversity and further it must be recognized
that the damage they caused is only an outcome
of other disturbances (population explosion, ir-
rational land use, and overexploitation of land
resources for economic growth, etc.). Dependence
on jhooming will, however, continue until tradi-
tional and non-traditional cultivators are provided
viable livelihood options as effective alternatives
to jhooming.
In the context of ‘global change’ from an eco-
logical perspective and ‘globalization’ from an
economical perspective, we note the rapidity by
which traditional approaches were left behind.
There is an urgent need for interaction between
the ecological, social and cultural dimensions of
a given environmental problem; there is a need to
look into the wider context of how societal percep-
tions differ and how the same environmental issue
is often perceived differently by various cultural
groups. In view of this development, landscape-
level heterogeneity, ensured by traditional so-
cieties and still prevalent in the more remote
areas of the world, i.e. NE India, is crucial for
the sustainable management of natural resources.
Mountain societies in developing countries still
consider themselves as part of a cultural land-
scape, and this forms the basis for the more re-
cently evolved ‘biosphere reserve’ concept, which
aims to link conservation with the sustainable de-
velopment of societies. It is in this context that
practice agroforestry become significant for the
land that underwent shifting cultivation. ‘Globally
important ingenious agricultural heritage systems’
in the form of agroforestry are multi-species (in-
cluding cultivars), complex agroecosystems that
are maintained and managed at low intensities
by traditional societies based on a value system.
They are extremely important for the integrated
management of agriculture and forestry. Agro-
forestry forms an integral component of a cultural
landscape, having strong socio-cultural intercon-
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Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 127
Fig. 3 Sustainable development model of NE India: intervention of agroforestry for integrated management of natural
resources
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128 Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131
nections with the landscape in which they are
placed. They are continually evolving products of
eco-cultural interactions occurring in space and
time. Understanding these sets of complex inter-
actions and the responses by indigenous forest
people may help in understanding the possible
sustainable use of forest resources. The agro-
forestry practices in shifting agricultural system is
essentially based on ‘farming the forest’ and is the
next important step in the socio-ecological evo-
lution. Furthermore, agroforestry strategy could
lead to more intensely managed multi-species
complex agroecosystems (a variety of agroforestry
systems, home gardens, compound farms and so
on) while still maintaining the overall integrity of
the landscape unit being under shifting cultiva-
tion. These traditional food production systems
are less energy intensive as they are largely de-
pendent upon resource recycling from within the
surrounding landscape. In this process, there is
a decline in interactions between the proximal
drivers of land use change such as land degrada-
tion linked to biodiversity loss and soil fertility,
and an important role is played by more distant
drivers such as market forces and governmental
policies, which determine deforestation.
Protecting cultural diversity from the gradual
homogenization of societies by globalization is
important. Equally important is crop biodiversity,
which ensures not only the livelihood of tradi-
tional societies themselves but also the general
health of ‘modern agriculture’. The challenge for
the scientific community, conservationists and de-
velopment planners is to ensure the conserva-
tion of cultural with biological diversity and, at
the same time, the sustainable development of
these socio-cultural systems. Socio-economic and
geographical considerations are also equally im-
portant and should be taken into account in or-
der to structure a sustainable model/framework
for natural resource management. Based on the
aforesaid discussions, I made a self-explainable
eco-sustainable model (Fig. 3) for the integrated
management of natural and human resources on
the basis of abovementioned discussions. Fur-
ther, integrated work and cooperation among
social workers, scientists, ecologists, wildlife work-
ers, academicians from Mizoram University and
North-Eastern Hill University, NGOs and policy-
makers are recommended for sustainable devel-
opment of the natural resources of NE India.
Conclusions
1. There is a wide scope of sloppy land devel-
opment and management in the hilly region
with application of agronomical, mechanical
soil and water conservation measures and in-
tervention of agroforestry systems. The soil
conservation measures and agroforestry sys-
tems are to be generally planned and taken up
in the areas retrieved from jhooming to pro-
vide protective cover to barren lands. These
will help in the prevention of soil erosion,
improving water regime particularly of the
catchments areas and general restoration of
balance of the ecology of nature.
2. Despite the increasing realization of agro-
forestry as an environmentally and economi-
cally suitable land use, its economic potential
as a competing land use from private and
social perspectives has not been thoroughly
studied. Different land uses exert different
levels of costs and benefits to the society
through generating positive and negative ex-
ternalities such as soil erosion and environ-
mental degradation. It is, therefore, important
for the policymakers to know which land use
systems better serve to improve the livelihood
of rural people as well as mitigate adverse en-
vironmental effects and what motivates farm-
ers to move from unsustainable to sustainable
land use practices.
3. Agroforestry encompasses sustainable and in-
tegrated management of biotic (forestry, agri-
cultural crops, wildlife), abiotic (soil, water)
and human resources (livelihood), keeping
traditional values intact. Further, integrated
work and cooperation among social workers,
biotechnologists, ecologists, wildlife workers,
academicians from Mizoram University and
North-Eastern Hill University, NGOs and
policymakers are recommended for sustain-
able development of the natural resources of
NE India.
4. A combination of modern and traditional
methods is often the best approach to con-
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Environ Monit Assess (2012) 184:113–131 129
serve and manage mountain biodiversity for
the benefit of NE people. TEK is a tool
that can link cultural diversity with biologi-
cal diversity and thus makes modern methods
acceptable to local populations. Moreover, the
traditional knowledge system in India is erod-
ing fast. There is an urgent need to record
all ethnobotanical information among the di-
verse ethnic communities before the tradi-
tional culture is completely lost. Often, tribals
are exploited by the modern societies and they
are forbidden to use the forest resources with
which their lives are strongly interwoven.
We recommend that, after survey, mapping and
identification, we have to have some collabo-
rative and financial cooperation extended from
governmental and scientific institutions to pre-
pare a database of plant resources, particularly
medicinal plants, and also to extract the bioactive
compounds responsible to treat ailments. The
ethnomedicinal as well as commercial/edible
plants should be cultivated in herbal gardens,
agroforestry systems and home gardens to en-
courage their sustainable utilization and hence
conservation.
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  • Source
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    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015
  • Source
    • "IR pollution originating from rapid industrialization, urbanization, population growth and economic development has perturbed the pristine environment of urban ecosystems [1]-[8]. Unfortunately, urban ecosystems of ecologically sensitive regions like Indo-Burma hot spot are under severe air pollution stress [1]-[6]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In recent Anthropocene, urban roadside plants are now increasingly being realized as an eco-sustainable tool for monitoring and mitigation of air pollution. Particulate matter (PM) is one of the most problematic air pollutants in view of their adverse impacts on human health. First part of the present study aimed to investigate the concentrations of PM in ambient air, Air Pollution Tolerance Index (APTI) as well as Anticipated Performance Index (API) and impact of PM pollutants on heavy metals and enzymatic activities (peroxidase and catalase) of twelve common roadside plant species, growing at differentially polluted sites of Aizawl, Mizoram, North East India (an Indo-Burma hot spot region). While the second part was to investigate the bio-magnetic monitoring i.e. bio-monitoring potential through magnetic properties [Magnetic susceptibility (χ), Anhysteretic remanent magnetization (ARM) and Saturation isothermal remanent magnetization (SIRM)] of selected plant leaves and concomitantly to correlate these magnetic properties with PM in order to screen the plants which may act as proxy for ambient PM concentrations. Pertaining to first part of study, highest dust deposition was noted for Ramrikawn (RKN-Med) site on Ficus bengalensis and lowest in Bauhinia variegate. Further, increased concentration of heavy metals (Fe, Cu and Zn) was recorded at RKN-Med site. Variation in dust or PM load, heavy metals concentrations and enzymatic activities i.e. catalase, peroxidase were found to be pollution-load dependent. In relation to second part of the study, Mangifera indica, Ficus benghalensis, Psidium guajava and Artocarpus heterophyllus were found to be efficient in biomagnetic monitoring because all the magnetic properties (χ, ARM and SIRM) were high and significantly correlated with ambient PM (R 2 =0.32-0.95). Present study may be a novel contribution in the area of bio-magnetic as well as bio-monitoring as the previous related studies confined their quest mostly to temperate plants, concentrating on single magnetic parameter. However, in present study we have selected several bio-monitoring parameters (dust capturing potential, APTI, API, heavy metals, enzymatic activities) and three magnetic parameters (χ, ARM and SIRM). Study concluded that bio-monitoring as an eco-sustainable tool while bio-magnetic monitoring as an application of environmental geomagnetism may act as proxy for ambient PM pollution and may act as a cost-effective green tool for environmental management in urban and peri-urban regions. Moreover, tolerant roadside plants find their suitability for plantation in ecologically sensitive regions having implications for urban ecosystem restoration.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015
  • Source
    • "Stone quarrying activities are also found in this area may lead emission of dust particles. Biomass burning through shifting cultivation is very common in this region (Rai, 2009Rai, , 2012); poses an enhanced load of suspended particulate matters in the atmosphere. Keeping in view, the specific Ramrikawn site is included in present investigation. "
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