Since its establishment, the Institute has investigated the diversity and dynamics of vegetation in India, especially in the Western Ghats, one of the major biodiversity hotspots of the World. It has also pioneered and created important resource collections in tropical Palynology and Paleoecology at the Asian level and has allowed the development of a research axis focused on past vegetation changes in the subcontinent.
The accumulated knowledge over the years and the combination of field inventories and remote sensing data provide a unique perspective on vegetation changes in response to climate and anthropogenic changes.
Pursuing vegetation monitoring and predicting future dynamics in the context of climate change, is at the core of ambitious projects and collaborations with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) and other institutions and networks in India (e.g. CES, Indian Institute of Science; Department of Earth Sciences, Pondicherry University) and abroad (EPHE Bordeaux, PAGES LandCover6K, INQUA, … ).
The collected voucher specimens were processed methodically and deposited in the HIFP (currently holds ca. 27000 specimens) and enrichment of associated taxonomic data is also recognized at national and international levels. It provides invaluable information on plant diversity, which still needs to be explored, while Indian institutions often lacks reference herbarium material. The classical Herbarium collections have also been integrated in cutting-edge bioinformatic projects, e.g., generation of interactive computer based species identification keys (for mangroves and trees of Western Ghats), online database of digitized samples with detailed ecological information (link to GeoSmit Axe 3).
The database is constantly updated with the recent taxonomy and specimen collections. In collaboration with the GeoSMIT department and the other various Indian partners efforts were made to build online portals through crowd sourcing of region specific biodiversity data as a citizen science promotion (for the Western Ghats/India/Assam; http://indiabiodiversity.org/) and Android apps on tropical trees, mangroves and weed species and pollen identification.
The umbrella question of the Ecology department is: how do past, present and future global changes impact local and regional land cover and land use and in turn biodiversity, functional ecology and ecosystem services? Thus, our current scientific project (2018-2022) is based on 3 axis: (i) forest ecology and botany; (ii) palynology and paleoecology and (iii) conservation ecology.