G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development, Kosi-Katarmal, Almora (U. P.) – 263 643, India.
Indian Himalaya ( 27O 50' – 37O 06' N and 72O 30' – 97O 25' E ) includes the parts of trans, northwest, west, central and east Himalaya and covers approximately an area of 4,19,873 Km2 with 2500 Km length and 240 Km width. The unique physiography, climatic conditions and soil characteristics of the area has resulted in a variety of habitats and a significant biological and cultural diversity. Along the altitudinal gradient ( 300 – 800 m.a.s.l) the vegetation varies from subtropical, temperate, subalpine to alpine types. It supports about 8000 species (47.06 % of the total flowering plants of India) of which 30 % are endemics, 10.2 % trees, 8.44 % wild edibles and over 15 % medicinal. The dependence of humans and livestock on this rich plant diversity is well known phenomenon since time immemorial. (Samant and Dhar,1997).
Livestock is an integral part of environment and economy especially in the rural part of the Himalaya. A large livestock population can not be maintained on the fodder produced on arable land alone. Therefore, to maintain healthy livestock farmers have to largely depend on the forest resources (Purohit and Samant, 1995).
As far as the state of knowledge on inventory, usage patterns, nutritive value etc; of Himalayan forage resources is concerned, it is scattered and diffused. There are many biogeographical regions of the Himalaya, which are under explored. Therefore, to update the information on the fodder resources extensive and intensive surveys are required. The present study highlights the diversity, distribution, feeding season, nativity, potential value and endemism of some of the fodder trees, shrubs, climbers, forbes and grasses of west Himalaya.
West Himalaya (28O 05' – 31O 25' N and 77O 45' – 45' – 81O E) includes the parts of Kumaun and Garhwal regions. It covers an area of approximately 51,125 km2. In the east, it is bound by Nepal, in west by Himachal Pradesh, in north by Tibet and south by plains of U.P. The major part of the area is mountainous with undulating topography and is characterised mainly by snow capped mountains, hills, deep and vast valleys. It has large altitudinal range (300 – 7,817 m a.s.l.) and vegetation along the altitudinal gradient.
The human and livestock population of the area is about 59,26,146 and 42,35,668 respectively (Anonymous, 1988, 1991). The present trend shows a regular increase in human and livestock population. This clearly indicates the increased dependence on forest resources. In remote areas of west Himalaya, livestock is the major source of income generation. The fodder obtained from arable land is not sufficient to maintain the livestock in sound health. Therefore, the inhabitants largely depend upon the forest based fodder resource. The major part (62.2%) of the fodder is extracted from forests (tree/ shrub/ leaves and herbaceous ground flora). The remaining fodder (37.8%) is derived from agroforestry systems, low altitude grasslands, degraded lands, high altitude grasslands and crop residues ( Singh et al., 1988).
The present study is based on the extensive survey of the literature and studies carried out by the author in the area. Information on altitudinal range, feeding season, nature and use values was collected from the secondary sources. Nativity of the species was identified following Anonymous (1883 – 1970) and endemism was recognized on the basis of phytogeographical distribution of the species. Altitudinal distribution indicated in the text refers to the upper limit of the range. Multiple utility of the species is based on the use of the species.
Results and Discussion
The present study records 279 fodder species from west Himalaya belonging to 185 genera. Of the recorded species, 112 are trees, 67 shrubs, 37 climbers/lianas and 63 Forbes and grasses. The species richness among the genera indicated that the maximum number of species (i.e. 13) of the genus Ficus are used as fodder, followed by Quercus (6 spp.), Berberis (6 spp.), Acer (5 spp.), Bauhinia (5 spp.), Rosa (5 spp.), Pyrus (4 spp.), Indigofera (4 spp.), Rubus (4 spp.) and Smilax ( 4 spp.) respectively. In remaining genera < 4 species are used as fodder. The diversity of the fodder species is presented in Table 1. Majority of the woody species is lopped for fodder except some spiny shrubs such as species of Rosa, Rubus, Pyracantha etc., which are usually browsed by sheep and goat, rarely by cattle. The Forbes and grasses form the major part of fodder collection during rainy and autumn seasons.
Among the woody species (216), 82 are evergreen, 126 deciduous and 8 semideciduous. The evergreen nature of species suggests their availability throughout the year. The high demand of such species may cause increased pressure. On the contrary, the deciduous nature of species suggests their availability in particular season/s.
Considering the altitude as a gradient, the use pattern of fodder species in all the life forms varies to great extent (Table 2). Maximum number of species (i.e. 228) in all the life forms are used as fodder in subtropical zone (< 1800m). This may be due to the large human and livestock population dependent on the forest resources for fodder and availability of a wide range of species as fodder. With the increase in altitude, the species richness as well as the human and livestock population decreases (Samant and Dhar, 1997). The utilization pattern of fodder species varies from season to season. Of the total species, 59 are used in summer, 40 in rainy season, 16 in winter, 36 throughout the year and 136 in combination of these season viz. winter/summer, summer/rainy/autumn, summer/rainy seasons. The variation in the use of species is due to availability of species in respective seasons (Table 2).
Table 2. Altitudinal distribution of fodder species in west Himalaya