The vegetation types include lowland evergreen forest, bamboo forest, broadleaved evergreen forest, coniferous forest, sub alpine forests, fir forests and roadside scrub. The vegetation is of tropical wet evergreen in the lower areas near Kalaktang and Ankaling (about 1,000m elevation), subtropical and temperate (with both broadleaved and coniferous) occurring above an altitude of 1,800m around Shergaon and Rupa. Various species like Oak especially Quercus incana and Quercus serrata, Magnolia sp., Rhododendron sp. and pine (Pinus roxburghii, Pinus wallichiana and Pinus kesiya) dominate the vegetation of the region. Fir forests are prevalent at elevations more than 2600 meters extending up to the timber line along with sporadic individuals of spruce.
East Himalayan Sub Tropical Wet Hill Forests extend from Dahung, Jigaon, Shergaon, Tenzingaon, Kalaktang upto the foothills region, while the Lower level Blue Pine Forests are found from Rupa to Shergaon.
Tigers form an integral part of all tribal folk tales and discussions but their habitat has shrunk tremendously; though they are sighted in the lower altitudes in Kalaktang areas. Elephants are similarly prevalent in the lower elevations of Kalaktang region. Primates like macaques, langurs and slow loris Nycticebus coucang; ungulates like hog deer, barking deer Muntiacus muntjak, musk deer Moschus sp., sambar Cervus unicolor and wild pig Sus scrofa, carnivores including common leopard Panthera pardus, himalayan black bear Ursus thibetanus, red panda Ailurus fulgens and yellow-throated marten Martes flavigula are the main wild animals found in Shergaon Forest Division. The rodents include himalayan marmot Marmota himalayana, himalayan striped squirrel Tamiops macclellandi and porcupine Hystrix sp. Himalayan black bear and Red panda are endangered. Lagomorphs like pikas Ochotona sp. are found in the high altitudes.
Blyth’s Tragopan and Temmick’s Tragopan are the pheasants found in Shergaon, Mandla-Pudhung, and Kalaktang areas. Blyth’s Tragopan (Tragopan blythii) is a globally threatened pheasant. This region is also declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. Mandala-Phudung area is especially known for Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea and other various vulnerable avifaunal species like Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nepalensis and endemic species of eastern Himalaya like Ward’s Trogon Harpactes wardi, Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra, Beautiful Sibia Heterophasia pulchella, White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri, Austen’s Barwing Actinodura Waldeni, Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nepalensis, Broad-billed Warbler Tickellia hodgsoni and Yellow-vented Warbler Phylloscopus cantator. The Morshing – Phudung – Mandala area has a varied altitudinal range of 2500-4000 m and the high altitude lakes located at elevations above 3000 meters have been known as the potential site for breeding of birds.
Use of Natural Resources:
The forest area is under the traditional ownership and de facto control of the village councils, and they have rights over most of the grazing lands. High altitude meadows (4,200–5,000 m) and rhododendron areas (4,000–4,500 m) are grazed by livestock during summer. Forests are also used for collecting fuelwood, timber, bamboo for house-building and oak Quercus sp. leaf litter for manure. Timber is usually used for bonafide uses but occasionally commercially traded within the villages, with fir Abies densa being the most important species. In the higher regions Rhododendron shrubs and trees especially red oak are valued as firewood. Leaves and small branches are taken from Juniperus spp., a tree of extreme importance in Buddhist rituals and culture. Collection of medicinal plants especially Swertia sp., Rubia cordifolia and Picrorrhiza kurrooa is another economic activity. Fruits of star anise Ilicium griffithi, sold as spice, are also permitted for extraction. Bark of Litsea sebifera, Oroxylum indicum, canes and Cinnamomum iners are also extracted from the forests by the locals. There is a rapid decline in the abundance of minor forest produce including medicinal plants because of unregulated collection. Extraction of Taxus baccata leaves was banned as a result in 1992. The Forest Department is assessing the availability of various such non-timber forest produce and issuing permits for their extraction to ensure sustainable harvesting of natural resources.RESOURCES