Over 50 lakh large farmland treesin India between 2018 & 2022 vanished
   Date :19-May-2024

MORE than 50 lakh large farmland trees vanished between 2018 and 2022 in India, partly due to altered cultivation practices, revealing a “concerning trajectory,” new research published in the journal Nature Sustainability has found. Researchers said that “an observable trend was emerging” wherein agroforestry systems are being replaced with paddy rice fields, even as a certain loss rate could be found to be natural. Large and mature trees within these agroforestry fields are removed, and trees are now being cultivated within separate block plantations typically with lower ecological value, they said.
Block plantations, usually involving fewer species of trees, were found to have increased in numbers which some villagers from Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra and other States confirmed via interviews. The team, including researchers from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, explained that the decision to remove trees is often driven by perceivedlow benefitsofthe trees,coupledwithconcerns that their shading effect, includingthatofNeemtrees, may adversely affect crop yields. Boosting crop yields also contributed to the expansion of paddy rice fields, further facilitated by water supplywhichwasaugmentedbytheestablishment ofnewboreholes,theauthors said. “This finding is particularlyunsettlinggiventhecurrent emphasis on agroforestry as an essential naturalclimatesolution,playing a crucialrole inbothclimate change adaptation and mitigation strategies, as well as forlivelihoods andbiodiversity,” the authors wrote. Agroforestry trees are a vitalpartofIndia’slandscapes as they generate socio-ecological benefits, along with beinga natural climate solution owing to their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from theair.
However,despitetheir importance, the lack of robust monitoring mechanisms has contributed to an insufficientgraspoftheirdistribution in relation to managementpractices, as well as theirvulnerabilitytoclimate change and diseases, the researchers said. For the study, the team usedAI-baseddeeplearning models for detecting individual non-forest trees for eachyear.Bytrackingthetree crown over the years, they then analysed the changes. Crowns of multiple trees together formacanopy. The researchers mapped about 60 crore farmland trees, excluding block plantations, and tracked them over the past decade. Theyfoundthataround11 per cent of the large trees, each having a crown size of 96 square metres and mapped in 2010/2011,