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The effects of the Nepal community forestry program on biodiversity conservation and carbon storage

The effects of the Nepal community forestry program on biodiversity conservation and carbon storage

Plos one 13(6): E0199526

ISSN/ISBN: 1932-6203

PMID: 29944704

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0199526

Approximately 15.5% of global forest is controlled by ~1 billion local people and the area under community control is increasing. However, there is limited empirical evidence as to whether community control is effective in providing critical global ecosystem services, such as biodiversity conservation and carbon storage. We assess the effectiveness of one example of community-controlled forest, Nepal's Community Forestry Program (CFP), at providing biodiversity conservation and carbon storage. Using data from 620 randomly selected CFP and non-CFP forest plots, we apply a robust matching method based on covariates to estimate whether CFPs are associated with greater biodiversity conservation or carbon storage. Our results reveal a significant positive effect of CFP on biodiversity, which is robust against the influence of unobserved covariates. Our results also suggest a significant negative effect of the CFP on aboveground tree and sapling carbon (AGC) at the national scale (-15.11 Mg C ha-1). However, the CFP has a mixed effect on carbon across geographic and topographic regions and in forests with different canopy covers. Though there were no significant effects of the CFP on AGC at lower altitudes, in the Terai or hill regions, and under closed canopies, there were positive effects in open canopies (25.84 Mg C ha-1) at lower slopes (25.51 Mg C ha-1) and negative effects at higher altitudes (-22.81 Mg C ha-1) and higher slopes (-17.72 Mg C ha-1). Our sensitivity analysis revealed that the positive effects are robust to unobserved covariates, which is not true for the negative results. In aggregate, our results demonstrate that CFP can be an effective forest management strategy to contribute to global ecosystem services such as biodiversity, and to a lesser extent carbon.

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