Contact Us  |  Search  
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research
Development, Security, and Cooperation
Policy and Global Affairs
Home About Us For Applicants For Grant Recipients Funded Projects Email Updates
Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

Planning plantations: past learning, toward triple wins in carbon, biodiversity and livelihoods

PI: Rajesh Thadani (, Centre for Ecology Development and Research (CEDAR), in partnership with Kumaun University
U.S. Partner: Forrest Fleischman, University of Minnesota
Project dates: November 2019 - October 2020

Project Overview:

Governments worldwide are increasingly aiming to increase tree cover, yet the impacts of afforestation programs are poorly understood. Recent evaluations find that they often have unintended negative impacts or tradeoffs between the triple goals of carbon storage, biodiversity protection, and livelihoods. This proposal complements an existing NASA-funded project evaluating the impact of plantations on land cover and livelihoods of poor forest dependent people in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. PEER funding will allow CEDAR, an Indian research NGO, to measure carbon storage and biodiversity in the same plantation areas and disseminate results through planned events, working in partnership with a local university. This project will make it possible to evaluate when–and how–afforestation projects achieve the triple win of storing more carbon, protecting biodiversity, and enhancing rural livelihoods, more fully accounting for the potential benefits and costs of plantations in the Himalayas. This project will provide important data on carbon and biodiversity in plantations of multiple age cohorts in diverse ecological types, and develop methodological innovations for analysis of carbon storage, biodiversity, and its relationship to land cover and livelihoods. India provides an ideal environment for exploring the impacts of afforestation programs due to its history of nearly 50 years of plantation programs, the presence of important biodiversity and carbon stocks, and the large number of people at the base of the economic pyramid in India who meet their daily livelihood needs from forests. There is a growing demand in India for accurate estimations of carbon stocks and biodiversity impacts resulting from tree plantations in order to evaluate the effectiveness of afforestation. This proposal will address this demand while also filling a long-standing gap in scientific information about the Himalayas, where social and ecological data are seldom collected together. With the results of the proposal, the researchers involved will contribute to understanding which kinds of afforestation programs have been most effective at achieving triple wins, contribute to policy development in Indian forestry through planned events, and enhance potential for triple wins by developing innovative methods that can be adapted by other countries.

This project is also expected to contribute to USAID’s Partnership for Sustainable Forests in India (Forest PLUS) program and to provide technologies and practices that can be transferred to other developing country contexts. This will be done in three ways. First, they will develop innovative methods to identify conditions when synergies among triple goals of carbon storage, biodiversity, and livelihoods are realized. Their findings will provide inputs to India’s forest policy and management, enabling governments and external funders to evaluate tradeoffs between afforestation goals, especially those impacting forest dependent people at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP), in designing future afforestation programs. Second, they will engage with three communities—forest-dependent people at the BOP, forest departments, and NGOs—to enhance impacts of this project by providing training and workshops. BOP populations will also be engaged during data collection and dissemination, and in this way, and by involving elected local governments, the PEER team will increase the representation of vulnerable groups in forest decision making. Third, the researchers will assist in the development of curriculum related to assessment of triple wins in afforestation. They will partner in developing field-based courses with partners at educational institutes, including Kumaun University, the University of Minnesota, India’s Forest Research Institute, the G.B. Pant Institute, and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. The proposal will directly educate two women researchers at CEDAR and a team of local youth in field methods and forest policy.  

Summary of Recent Activities:

November and December 2019 represented the startup period for this project, with the main aim being to seek permission from the Himachal Forest Department to carry out research activities in the selected plantations. The CEDAR team visited the Shimla Forest Department office and to meet with relevant officials and initiate the formal procedures to procure permission. The final months of 2019 were also utilized for hiring project staff and identifying community members to be included in training programs. The PI Dr. Rajesh Thadani and his group also held their first meeting with their project collaborators, Dr. Forrest Fleischman and Dr. Vijay Ramprasad, to discuss and plan for project activities. The PEER team has prepared a field manual based on the project objectives to be shared with project researchers, community members, and other stakeholders, including the Forest Department.

The CEDAR team also delivered a detailed presentation about the project to the senior authorities of the Shimla Forest Department through a Skype group call. Three senior officials of the Forest Department and two members of the CEDAR team joined the call and had detailed discussions about the project and its objectives, methodologies, and expected benefits. Field research will begin during the first quarter of 2020. In addition to the researchers, the project will involve members of three communities: (1) vulnerable forest-dependent people living near the plantations, (2) Forest Department staff members, and (3) staff from relevant NGOs. The PI and his colleagues will provide training to the community members on measurement of tree circumference at breast height, biodiversity identification, and calculation of standing biomass, as well as soil carbon. Later in the project, the findings and recommendations will also be shared with the community-based participants, including by working with the locally elected panchayats. Also in the first quarter, researchers from CEDAR will begin taking readings for tree and soil carbon from 60 plantations, to be selected from the total of 600 plantations established by U.S. partner Dr. Fleischman’s team.

Back to PEER Cycle 8 Grant Recipients