- Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala
- Kerala Forest Department
Perceived as one of the 25 global hotspots of biodiversity, the Western Ghats support the growth of a wide variety of endemic plants and animals. In compliance with such International Agreements as the Convention of Biological Diversity, the National Forest Policy has emphasized the need for a more integrative approach in forest management. This includes not only the forest ecosystems but also the biotic and abiotic factors that influence them. The overall objective of the project is to promote the conservation of biodiversity as also the sustainable usage of forest resources by forest dependent communities with the development of strategic landscape analysis and planning approaches.
This study is carried out in two phases:
The first phase is to describe the different levels of organization of the Western Ghats, and in particular, the ones that allow the study of forest dynamics at landscape level. This is followed by a prioritization of the landscape units according to the pertinence of biodiversity conservation.
In the second phase, the interactions between the latent drivers of forest change in the selected landscape units are analyzed and simulation models developed and tested for usage as tools of decision support.
The landscape approach adopted here is based on the principles developed in Landscape Ecology that incorporates the diverse aspects of spatial heterogeneity, its dynamics and influence on ecological processes. The classification of the Western Ghats into relevant landscape units has been done on the presumption that the structure (patterns, arrangement of patches within a mosaic) of the landscape is determined primarily by biophysical factors (i.e bioclimate, soil, topography, hydrography, ecology, vegetation). It is subsequently modified by human activities as a result of the complex process of environmental changes induced, amongst others, by socio-economic and cultural factors.
In the case of a prioritized landscape, a detailed and comprehensive spatial database would be developed to typify different ecosystems that would form the basis for future strategic planning by the Forest Department. Stakeholders surrounding the landscape would be identified and their influence on the landscape, studied. A combination of variables that characterize the distinct socio-ecological situations in the landscape and its extent would be identified. By studying the dynamics of these situations, a test simulation model designed as decision-making tool would be developed to predict the outcome of management interventions.
M.G. University, Kottayam