Passive degradation of Himalayan ecology: Oak trees in Landour, Mussoorie

As soon as one enters the small hillside of Landour, Mussoorie; the old Oak trees, Pine trees and Deodar welcome everyone with open arms. The whistling Himalayan breeze blowing through the tree leaves endows life and hope in each and every corner of this beautiful hillside.

© Landour, Mussoorie

With the changing seasons these evergreen trees always add charm and continue to succour the ecology, biodiversity. Besides, they also help towards conservation of soil and water. But during recent years I have observed deteriorated ecological condition of these beautiful trees in Landour and adjacent areas.

©Near Landour, Mussoorie
(Households and hotels roosting)

While hiking in the area I have noticed various signs of disturbances, e.g. fire, lopping, removal of woody debris, human waste, and garbage including food wrappers, glass bottles and plastic bags. Today also I heard a nearby forest burning.

© Forest fire near Landour, Mussoorie

The garbage dumping sites are alarming and must be properly managed, otherwise apart from risk to the ecology, might result in future forest fires in the adjacent areas if proper measures are not taken.

©Forest fire in the hillslope near Landour, Mussoorie

The rapid urbanisation and expansion of the Mussoorie and adjacent areas is paving way for ecological as well as habitat degradation and the adjacent forests and environment are facing challenges. Alongwith the huge influx of tourists, garbage littering has always been a major issue in the hillside. But apart from the above mentioned issues, there is an important aspect which I like to draw attention through the article. The Oak, Pine and Deodar forests are also dying slow death due a botanical component also, climbers and vines.

©Green mountain roads

These climbers and vines slowly grow alongside trees and with the help of the hooks and suckers, they cause severe damage to the trees resulting often in the death of these mighty trees. The vines and climbers derive nutrition from the host tree and survives on it eventually it starts expanding its girth which ultimately leading to the death of the trees.

© Climbers slowly growing in the tree bark

Sometimes, these climbers form a thick blanket covering the roots and bark of the tree. During monsoons the leaves rots and fungal infections also results in the death of the tree. These climbers cause damage causing cankers or cracks eventually destroying large forest covers in the area.

© Climbers and vines in Oak and Pine mixed forests, Landour, Mussoorie

Hedera helix (common ivy), Vitis himalayan are the major vines, I have observed in Landour and vicinity areas which are actually speading fast and proper silvicultural operations must be adopted to control expansion of the species.

©Vines causing damage to Deodar trees, Dhanaulty

I have witnessed such phenomena in Oak tree (Quercus leucotrichophora A. Camus) also locally known as Banj Oak or Himalayan Oak tree and Deodar (Cedrus deodara) trees.

© Ultimately the Deodar tree uprooted, Vines on the tree bark

The Oak tree is a climax species in the region. Besides being significantly important to ecology, Banj Oak tree supports wide biodiversity. It provides fuelwood, fodder and timber and plays a vital role in conservation of soil from erosion and landslide, regulating water flow in watersheds and maintaining water quality in streams and rivers, and support high native floral and faunal diversity, thereby providing numerous ecosystem services to mankind in the region. Different parts of the plant such as seeds, leaves, fruit and dry gum resin is used to cure various ailments such as urinary infection, toothache, piles, diarrhea, asthma, hemorrhages, dysentery, astringent, diuretic, tonsillitis and snake bite, urinary tract infections.

©Young leaves and shoot of Oak tree
© A pathway in mixed Oak and Pine forest, Landour, Mussoorie

Many foresters and researchers have found that there is high rate of mortatlity in some of Banj oak trees due to livestock grazing, lopping, extraction of fuelwood and various other biotic pressures. The mortality of this species is a matter of great concern which needs proper monitoring and research to find out the actual cause of the problem and also develop mitigation strategies to prevent the loss of the Himalayan legacy of Oak forests.The vulnerable mountain ecosystems are prone to encounter greater risk of impacts, hence coordinated efforts are required to develop effective strategies for adaptation and mitigation.

©View of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

Thank you!!!


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© 2019 – 2021

Published by Dr. Chandrima Debi

Hi, I am Chandrima Debi. I am a Doctorate in Forestry and an independent researcher. Ever since childhood, I experienced deep-rooted connection with nature, forest and wildlife. I have written various research articles, case studies based on geology, forests, medicinal plants, biodiversity and conservation. Through this blog I share my experiences with nature and forests around us and aid towards the protection and conservation of biodiversity, wildlife and the values associated.

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