Afghanistan boasts a wealth of biodiversity, with as many as 5000 species of plants spread across a country with extreme and diverse habitats from low deserts to the high mountains of the Pamirs and Hindu Kush. Bamyan Province in the Central Highlands is one of the richest areas for plant diversity, and local communities use a range of plants in their day to day lives for a variety of purposes.
However, Afghanistan’s recent history has meant that increased pressure has been placed on its unique biodiversity and habitats, and that environmental conservation has not been a priority.
In the mountain valleys of Bamyan, communities regularly collect woody plants to use as fire wood, and the communities themselves admit that with no other options, their collections have been unsustainable – many plants previously common are now rarely seen making fuel wood collection longer and more arduous than in the past.
While we know that woody plants are targeted in these collections, we do not know which ones and in what proportions they are collected. Through observational walks, interviews with communities during fuel wood collections and targeted specimen collection and documentation, we will establish what they collect and use, and the effort required to do so.
Alongside the alternative fuel interventions in this Darwin Initiative project, we will measure the reductions in fuel wood collections and establish long term monitoring plots to catalogue biodiversity changes coupled with the reduction in collection intensity. This will be used to predict long term changes that will help to regenerate natural plant communities and restore the ecosystem services that they provide.