A mixed methods analysis of forest change in Nepal’s community forests: 1988-2016

Authors: Alexander Smith*, Oregon State University, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Oregon State University, Jefferson Fox, East-West Center
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Remote Sensing, Natural Resources
Keywords: Community Forest Management, Mixed Methods, Remote Sensing, Nepal
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 26
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite widespread implementation of community forest management over the past 40 years, limited studies have evaluated its long-term impact on forest condition. Existing literature often lacks long-term forest cover data and/or fails to directly link observed changes in forest cover to forest management and governance decisions of local forest users. This research used a mixed-methods approach to evaluate the conservation impact of eight community forest user groups in Nepal. Long-term forest change patterns were assessed by creating an annual time series of forest cover, 1988-2016, from publicly available Landsat imagery. Historical forest management and governance were measured using qualitative open-ended interviews with community forest user group managers, (~24 participants). Forest management histories were obtained from interviews, forest management records, and field observations. Yearly forest cover data were merged with forest management histories to link forest user decisions about forest management and governance to observed changes in forest cover. Satellite-derived forest cover maps showed that after introduction of community forest management, forest cover increased in all study sites, rising to > 90%; those levels were maintained throughout the study. Interviews, forest management records, and field observations indicated that changes detected in forest cover data resulted from community forest management activities, e.g. tree planting; forest patrols; grazing bans. Persistent efforts by key community members to promote forest management and rapid initial gains in forest conditions convinced the broader user community to invest in forest conservation. Over time a robust culture of community ownership and management developed leading to sustained forest conservation.

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