Exploring the effect of leaf litter removal on soil organic carbon in community-managed oak forests (van panchayat) of the central Himalaya.
Ambedkar University, Cedar
Leaf litter removal is a widespread practice in the banj oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) dominated van panchayat forests of the central Himalaya. Existing literature fails to examine the impact of leaf litter removal on the vertical distribution of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the soil profile across disturbance regimes. This study postulates that the vertical distribution of SOC is a good indicator of disturbance between raked and un-raked sites.
Soil samples were taken at two distinct depths of 1-5cm and 6-10cm from two banj oak VP forests under differing disturbance regimes of high and low leaf litter removal. Adequate controls were placed by choosing sites of similar slope, aspect and elevation, which can be strong determinants of micro-climate in the hills. The samples were later analysed for SOC by the Walkley-Black method at CEDAR’s lab in Dehradun.
Lab analysis revealed that between the raked and un-raked site, SOC percentage values were similar for the top 1-5cm, but markedly different for the depth 6-10cm. SOC percolation for the raked site was found to be significantly lower than for the un-raked site. Thus the practice of leaf litter removal from banj oak dominated forests may be unsustainable for carbon cycling.
Under the van panchayat management system, rules governing the use of forest resources by local communities exist for all but one resource – that of leaf litter removal. This study attempts to quantify through appropriate indicators the impact of litter removal on carbon cycling, which is important for ecosystem processes and functioning. Our tentative results call for certain resource-use rules over the removal of leaf litter.