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Plant Use Values and Phytosociological Indicators: Implications for Conservation in the Kailash Sacred Landscape, Nepal

  • Kunwar, R. M.

Human communities that inhabit rural, remote, rugged and biodiverse environments adopt diverse livelihood strategies such as utilizing different ethno-ecological environments. The present study explores how people use plant resources in the context of availability and accessibility of plants and habitats, and diversity of culture. We hypothesize that people are most likely to forage the most visible and accessible plants and habitats frequently. This relationship was tested in the Darchula and Baitadi districts of the Kailash Sacred Landscape Nepal, using data from phytosociological studies and community interviews. Total use values, medicinal use values and other use values of plants were used for analyses. Plant availability was assessed by using phytosociological indicators. The accessibility was tested by using the use values of plants with reference to the site-specific explanatory variables: forest/non-forest habitat, nearby/transition/distant area, hill/mountainous district, and Himalayan endemic/Pan-Himalayan/cosmopolitan distribution. A weak association between plant use values and plant availability and site accessibility was recorded. However, the plant use value was influenced by ecological (Shannon diversity, species richness) and cultural indicators (preference for specific products and recognition) and varied at the level of use category (medicinal and non-medicinal). Higher medicinal use values at Darchula district indicate that the knowledge of plant collection and use was more dependent on quality of products and directed harvesting and less influenced by availability of resources and accessibility of sites. Since plant apparency was not found to always be the most important indicator, social and cultural factors appear to be as the most influential indicators.

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