BENGALURU: Time and again, we talk about bio-diversity, species loss, the conversion of natural terrestrial habitats to agricultural lands and how mammals are the worst affected species today.
It is estimated that if the present trends continue, 565 mammalian species may vanish from the planet in five decades. Carnivores are said to be more vulnerable because of their unique biological traits such as their position at the top of the food chain, conflict-prone behaviour and low population densities.
Recently, studies on bio-diversity or wildlife have made news, especially important findings or formulation of new methodologies in India and abroad. Ongoing research studies by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), India Program, in the protected areas of the country have often been highlighted.
But this time, it has come out with a collaborative volume of its species and habitat studies, field work, survey design, methodologies and findings — Recovering Biodiversity in Indian Forests.
This is a collaborative effort by a senior, distinguished officer of the Indian Forest Service with other expert ecologists. They include Dr G V Reddy, IFS, several WCS scientists — Drs Ullas Karanth, Samba Kumar and Krithi Karanth — and Dr Jagdish Krishnaswamy of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE).
To protect biodiversity, two alternative management systems are often proposed. One is State ownership of Strict Protected Areas while the second is based on community ownership and sustainable resource use. To objectively assess the efficacy of wildlife conservation models, their (the five research scholars’) study examined human impact on a suite of vegetation types, birds and large herbivores in Nagarahole National Park, Karnataka.
Dr Reddy, currently Chief Wildlife Warden, Rajasthan, says, “For bio-diversity assessment and estimations of species composition, richness, diversity and abundance, we applied the methodology established through long-term monitoring studies of WCS India.”
The authors applied the line transect methodology where samplers walk along predetermined, square-shaped trail and record encounters of target species. They 22 line transects, inclusive of three different management regimes of the park — highly, moderately and least protected zones.
Dr Reddy conducted the study as part of his doctoral work at Manipal University Wildlife under the guidance of wildlife biologist and well-known tiger conservationist Dr Karanth.
“The results clearly indicate that human interventions trigger cascading effects on structure and function of the forest and essentially result in bio-diversity loss,” says Dr Karanth. “We also recorded bio-diversity responses to management interventions and found that its quality was highest in highly and moderately protected areas.”
The study used advanced methods to assess vegetation, birds and large herbivores under varied human use regimes and found support for a strong preservationist approach. The book also details a study on the effect of anthropogenic pressures under different levels of human access and management regimes on biodiversity and wildlife.
The authors discuss how protected areas are the strongest sources for conserving varied forms of biodiversity in India. They developed a Human Disturbance Index, to assess impacts on biodiveristy.
The book has been published as part of the Springer Briefs Series, which presents concise summaries of cutting-edge science and practical applications across a variety of fields.
It is likely to be of interest to students of ecology and sociology, conservation practitioners, scientists and officials managing forests and wildlife across Asia. The book will hit the stands only after 25 June.