A global biodiversity hotspot and one of the most irreplaceable areas for conservation, this region has a staggering plant and animal diversity overlapping with a dense human population. In this region, our work focuses on human impacts on wild species and habitats, biological surveys, human-wildlife conflict research and mitigation, and ecological restoration.
Wildlife and Human Ecology
The Western Ghats forests, rivers, and grasslands contain an extraordinary diversity of species, including rare and threatened species and endemics found nowhere else in the world. These species survive in landscapes that are a mix of protected and human-use areas. Understanding plant and animal ecology, human impacts on wildlife species, and how people use and relate to natural resources is all critical for conservation and these motivate our research in the region.
Conservation and Communities
Living with wildlife: reducing conflicts and human impacts and ecologically restoring degraded areas
Policy and Outreach
Translating scientific research results and understanding to lasting changes on the ground involves communicating to a wide variety of stakeholders. There is also a need to translate ideas for change into policy and practice, whether it is to transform land use practices or to reap the benefits of conservation. Towards these ends, we continue to engage with policy and outreach in the Western Ghats.
- Journal Article2018Seasonal variation in wildlife roadkills in plantations and tropical rainforest in the Anamalai Hills, Western Ghats, IndiaCURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 114, NO. 3
- Journal Article2017From intent to action: A case study for the expansion of tiger conservation from southern IndiaGlobal Ecology and Conservation, 9: 11–20Download
PDF, 2.61 MB
To conserve a large, wide-ranging carnivore like the tiger, it is critical not only to maintain populations at key habitat sites, but also to enable the persistence of the species across much larger landscapes. To do this, it is important to establish well-linked habitat networks where sites for survival and reproduction of tigers are complemented by opportunities for dispersal and colonization. On the ground, expanding protection to areas with a potential for tiger recovery still remains the means of operationalizing the landscape approach. Yet, while the gazetting of protected areas is necessary to enable this, it is not sufficient. It is essential to benchmark and monitor the process by which establishment of protected areas must necessarily be followed by management changes that enable a recovery of tigers, their prey and their habitats. In this paper, we report a case study from the Cauvery and Malai Mahadeshwara Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries of southern India, where we document the infrastructural and institutional changes that ensued after an unprecedented expansion of protected areas in this landscape. Further, we establish ecological benchmarks of the abundance and distribution of tigers, the relative abundance of their prey, and the status of their habitats, against which the recovery of tigers in this area of vast conservation potential may be assessed over time.
- Journal Article2017The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) projectEcology and Evolution, Volume 7, Issue 1 Pages: 145–188
The PREDICTS project—Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (www.predicts.org.uk)—has collated from published studies a large, reasonably representative database of comparable samples of biodiversity from multiple sites that differ in the nature or intensity of human impacts relating to land use. We have used this evidence base to develop global and regional statistical models of how local biodiversity responds to these measures. We describe and make freely available this 2016 release of the database, containing more than 3.2 million records sampled at over 26,000 locations and representing over 47,000 species. We outline how the database can help in answering a range of questions in ecology and conservation biology. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most geographically and taxonomically representative database of spatial comparisons of biodiversity that has been collated to date; it will be useful to researchers and international efforts wishing to model and understand the global status of biodiversity.
- Journal Article2017Successional status, seed dispersal mode and overstorey species influence tree regeneration in tropical rain-forest fragments in Western Ghats, IndiaJournal of Tropical Ecology 33: 270-284. DOI: 10.1017/S0266467417000219
The effects of fragmentation and overstorey tree diversity on tree regeneration were assessed in tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats, India. Ninety plots were sampled for saplings (1–5 cm diameter at breast height (dbh); 5×5-m plots) and overstorey trees (>9.55 cm dbh; 20×20-m plots) within two fragments (32 ha and 18 ha) and two continuous forests. We tested the hypotheses that fragmentation and expected seed-dispersal declines (1) reduce sapling densities and species richness of all species and old-growth species, and increase recruitment of early-successional species, (2) reduce the prevalence of dispersed recruits and (3) increase influence of local overstorey on sapling densities and richness. Continuous forests and fragments had similar sapling densities and species richness overall, but density and richness of old-growth species declined by 62% and 48%, respectively, in fragments. Fragments had 39% lower densities and 24% lower richness of immigrant saplings (presumed dispersed into sites as conspecific adults were absent nearby), and immigrant densities of old-growth bird-dispersed species declined by 79%. Sapling species richness (overall and old-growth) increased with overstorey species richness in fragments, but was unrelated to overstorey richness in continuous forests. Our results show that while forest fragments retain significant sapling diversity, losses of immigrant recruits and increased overstorey influence strengthen barriers to natural regeneration of old-growth tropical rain forests.
- Journal Article2017Bats in the Ghats: Agricultural intensification reduces functional diversity and increases trait filtering in a biodiversity hotspot in IndiaBiological Conservation 210: 48-55.
The responses of bats to land-use change have been extensively studied in temperate zones and the neotropics, but little is known from the palaeotropics. Effective conservation in heavily-populated palaeotropical hotspots requires a better understanding of which bats can and cannot survive in human-modified landscapes. We used catching and acoustic transects to examine bat assemblages in the Western Ghats of India, and identify the species most sensitive to agricultural change. We quantified functional diversity and trait filtering of assemblages in forest fragments, tea and coffee plantations, and along rivers in tea plantations with and without forested corridors, compared to protected forests.
Functional diversity in forest fragments and shade-grown coffee was similar to that in protected forests, but was far lower in tea plantations. Trait filtering was also strongest in tea plantations. Forested river corridors in tea plantations mitigated much of the loss of functional diversity and the trait filtering seen on rivers in tea plantations without forested corridors. The bats most vulnerable to intensive agriculture were frugivorous, large, had short broad wings, or made constant frequency echolocation calls. The last three features are characteristic of forest animal-eating species that typically take large prey, often by gleaning.
Ongoing conservation work to restore forest fragments and retain native trees in coffee plantations should be highly beneficial for bats in this landscape. The maintenance of a mosaic landscape with sufficient patches of forest, shade-grown coffee and riparian corridors will help to maintain landscape wide functional diversity in an area dominated by tea plantations.
- Journal Article2017Evaluating a survey landscape for tiger abundance in the confluence of the Western and Eastern GhatsCurrent Science, Vol 113, No. 9, 1759-1763.Download
PDF, 1.54 MB
Due to the current depleting trends in tiger populations, range countries have committed to double tiger numbers by the year 2022. However, some of the areas, including source sites, across the range countries lack scientifically estimated tiger numbers both at the larger landscape and at the protected area level. Here we report a population of tigers, from Biligirirangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve, using camera trap based capture-mark recapture in a spatially explicit Likelihood and Bayesian analyses that yielded an estimate of ~55 tigers with a density of about 6.8 tigers/100 km2. Biligirirangaswamy Tiger Reserve nestled in a larger tiger landscape perhaps contributes dispersing individuals to the adjoining forests calling for integrated monitoring and management efforts for the entire landscape. This data set could help in designing long-term, landscape level plans, and outcomes.
- Dataset2017Data from: Successional status, seed dispersal mode and overstorey species influence tree regeneration in tropical rain-forest fragments in Western Ghats, IndiaDryad Digital Repository. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vd0nn.2
Dataset available from the Dryad Digital Repository:
Osuri AM, Chakravarthy D, Mudappa D, Raman TRS, Ayyappan N, Muthuramkumar S, Parthasarathy N (2017) Successional status, seed dispersal mode and overstorey species influence tree regeneration in tropical rain-forest fragments in Western Ghats, India. Journal of Tropical Ecology 33(4): 270-284. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266467417000219
- Book2017Birds of Cauvery and MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuary (Kannada) - Pocket guideProduced under the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme supported by IUCN and KfWDownload
PDF, 1.04 MB
A pocket guide to common birds of Cauvery and MM hills Wildlife Sanctuaries in a handy, foldable format. Illustrations are available on 137 species, with winter migrants, marked separately. This pocket guide has 10 panels with bird illustrations laminated for protection and easy to use in the field. The pocket guide is in Kannada, with bird names listed in both Kannada and English.
Supporting conservation outreach in India, this guide has been produced as part of Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme supported by IUCN and KfW. These pocket guides are being distributed free of cost to schools, community members, social leaders and others in the project landscape.
- Journal Article2017Conflict to coexistence: Human – leopard interactions in a plantation landscape in Anamalai Hills, IndiaConservation and Society 15(4): 474-482.Download
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When leopards are found in human-dominated landscapes, conflicts may arise due to attacks on people or livestock loss or when people retaliate following real and perceived threats. In the plantation landscape of the Valparai plateau, we studied incidents of injury and loss of life of people and livestock over time (15 – 25 y) and carried out questionnaire surveys in 29 plantation colonies and eight tribal villages to study correlates of livestock depredation, people's perception of leopards, and preferred management options for human – leopard interactions. Leopards were implicated in an average of 1.3 (± 0.4 SE) incidents/year (1990 – 2014) involving humans and 3.6 (± 0.8 SE) incidents/year (1999 – 2014) involving livestock, with no statistically significant increasing trend over time. Most incidents of injury or loss of life involved young children or unattended livestock, and occurred between afternoon and night. At the colony level, livestock depredation was positively related to the number of livestock, but decreased with the distance from protected area and number of residents. Half the respondents reported seeing a leopard in a neutral situation, under conditions that resulted in no harm. All tribal and 52% of estate respondents had neutral perceptions of leopards and most (81.9%, n = 161 respondents) indicated changing their own behaviour as a preferred option to manage negative interactions with leopards, rather than capture or removal of leopards. Perception was unrelated to livestock depredation, but tended to be more negative when human attacks had occurred in a colony. A combination of measures including safety precautions for adults and children at night, better livestock herding and cattle-sheds, and building on people's neutral perception and tolerance can mitigate negative interactions and support continued human – leopard coexistence.
- Journal Article2016Providing more protected space for tigers Panthera tigris: a landscape conservation approach in the Western Ghats, southern IndiaOryx 50(2): 336–343Download
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Conservation of large carnivores is challenging as they face various threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation. One of the current challenges to tiger Panthera tigris conservation in India is the conversion of habitat to uses that are incompatible with conservation of the species. Bringing more tiger habitat within a protected area system and in the process creating a network of connected protected areas will deliver dual benefits of wildlife conservation and protection of watersheds. Focusing on the southern Indian state of Karnataka, which holds one of the largest contiguous tiger populations, we attempted to address this challenge using a conservation planning technique that considers ecological, social and political factors. This approach yielded several conservation successes, including an expansion of the protected area network by 2,385 sq km, connection of 23 protected areas, and the creation of three complexes of protected areas, increasing the protected area network in Karnataka from 3.8 to 5.2% of the state’s land area. This represents the largest expansion of protected areas in India since the1970s. Such productive partnerships between government officials and conservationists highlight the importance of complementary roles in conservation planning and implementation.