Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR)

Long term socio-ecological monitoring in the Western Ghats landscape.


M.Soubadra Devy T. Ganesh , R.Ganesan M. Mathivanan, P. Saravnan, S. Thalavapandi, Maria Antony

Agasthyamalai Community Conservation centre of ATREE based in South Tamil Nadu has been involved in addressing diverse conservation problems through decade long research that involves ecological and social sciences. The geographic focus has been the Tamiraparani basin which covers three districts. The landscape comprises of KMTR, the protected area in the Agasthyamalai region of Western Ghats, vast production landscape in plains supported by canal networks and natural areas characterized by scrubby vegetation and grasslands which falls under the rain shadow region of Western Ghats. Conserving biodiversity in such a landscape is challenging but gives an opportunity to understand and improve the relationship between science, policy and practice to and move towards the desired outcome. Here, we draw upon various case studies right from the protected area and human dominated landscape to understand the strengths, weaknesses and limitations in relation to each other to enable more effective conservation policy and practice.
We examine case studies and characterize them into various model proposed by Hoffman Institute (2017). Model I is where 'science meets and informs policy and practices successfully'. We have the case studies that support from within protected area which involves temple festival with huge impacts on biodiversity and the second is the successful protection of bird heronry in the human dominated landscape. Model II comprise case studies of failure of 'science uptake' - through our research project we had highlighted biodiversity support within and pastoralists communities livelihood dependence on semi-arid grasslands. This case study clearly demonstrated science did not matter due to apathy and vested interests of policy makers which led to diversion of critical grazing grounds for alternate use. Model III is through 'science engagement' which encompasses citizen science and knowledge co-production - the annual Tamiraparani bird count with citizenry engagement has emerged as a signature event in the landscape leading to many spin-offs particularly attracting the decisions makers and has resulted in a suite of actions. Typifying the case studies under these models does provide insights on what works and under what circumstances and how these could be applied elsewhere with reduced time of action.
Keywords: Science, conservation, policy, Agasthyamalai Conservation Center, Tamil Nadu

M. Mathivanan and M. Soubadra Devy

The COVID 19 pandemic has had unprecedented impact on the human society but the plight of communities who eked out their livelihoods from natural systems in rural landscapes have gone unnoticed. The pastoralists of south Tamil Nadu who comprise of mixed communities are custodians of local breeds of cattle, sheep, buffalo and goat. These breeds have been domesticated over centuries and are best suited for the agro-climatic conditions of the region. These breeds of sheep and cattle need to migrate for two reasons - the resources closer to their settlement dry up during summer that makes them move westwards to take advantage of the forage available on lands left fallow after harvest, and have water resources flowing out of the Western Ghats.
We conducted a study, to assess if the learning from the first wave of lockdown helped them to cope with the second one. A detailed questionnaire survey among shepherds and cattle herders in south Tamil Nadu was administered to understand the major challenges in the herding profession in general and how lockdown impacted their daily routines during both waves. Earlier, common property resources like tanks, rivers, streams, grazing commons, penning commons and private properties like semi-arid grasslands and farmlands have thus played vital roles in sustaining pastoralism. But in recent times, such resources have declined considerably. Though the lockdown affected cattle and sheep herders in different ways, the result suggests that both suffered significant financial losses – via both increased expenses and reduced incomes in both waves. During the first lockdown migration of shepherds were affected as vehicles to transport their lambs and penning materials did not arrive in time whereas cattle herders were already in the migration ground. Lack of availability and increase in prices of vaccine and routine medicines for sheep was a major constraint in the second wave lockdown. With no public transport herders were seldom able to visit their homes in both lockdowns. The cattle herders suffered major financial losses in both lockdowns as they were unable to transport cattle dung which is a major product taken to Kerala and provides good income. However, there were some benefits, shepherds and cattle herders were able to access forage and water during both the lockdown besides the isolation of pastoralists during lockdown in their grazing grounds made them less prone to Covid-19 virus. At the time of lockdown the state government had relaxed several restrictions for agriculture related activities. Vehicles were allowed to transport agricultural produces and others. We feel a similar kind of relaxation could have been given for herding - for instance weekly markets can be operated on alternate weeks following established precautionary protocols. National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and NGOs can facilitate to start a Pastoralists Producers Organisation for herders in line with Farmers Producers Organisation for farmers which can provide opportunities for work during times of stress.
Key words: Pastoralism, Common property resources, cattle, sheep, COVID 19

Moths are insects that not only play a vital role in sustaining insect-eating vertebrates, pollinate flowers but are also good indicators of environmental change. Recent studies on insect monitoring from the temperate regions has shown an alarming decline in their populations globally. ‘Long-term monitoring data’ is essential for determining the decline of insect populations and to understand their impacts and stressors. The present study estimated the diversity and effect of rainfall on moths in wet evergreen forests of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR). The monitoring was carried out in the first week of the month from December 2018 to March 2020. Light sheet method was used to record the moths, and all moths were photographed for reference. A total of 489 species of moths representing 23 families were recorded. The family, Erebidae had the highest species richness followed by Geometridae, Crambidae, Sphingidae and Noctuidae. Many species from the above families were common throughout the year. The species poor families were Attevidae, Bombycidae, Depressariidae, Lecithoceridae, Zyganidae. Moth species richness was high during both the south west monsoon and North West monsoons compared to the dry seasons. However, there was a polynomial relationship between rainfall and species richness with fewer species during high and low rainfall. More nuanced monitoring and analysis with climatic factors including temperature along with ecological variates such as food plant availability could help understand the variations in moth species richness in the wet forests of Western Ghats.

Saravanan, A., Sachin, M.H., Devy, M.S., Ganesh, T., and Ganesan, R.

Despite covering only 10% of the Earth’s surface, tropical forests play a significant role in the global carbon cycle by sequestering 25% of global terrestrial carbon and account for 34% of terrestrial gross primary productivity. A better understanding of the dynamics and structure of tropical forests is necessary to predict the potential of these ecosystems in understanding the impact of climate change on these forests. impacts. Stand level biomass is the cumulative outcome of how environmental factors impact forest structure and dynamics, including the rate at which wood is produced (diameter growth) and lost (stem mortality). We estimated above ground carbon (AGC) in three 1ha (40m x 250m) forest dynamics plots at the mid-elevation evergreen forests of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR). The AGC accumulation was estimated from the diameter growth and AGC losses by the mortality of trees from 1999 to 2021. Results highlight that large diameter class individuals of dominant canopy tree species- Cullenia exarillata and Palaquium ellipticum, store most of the AGC. The AGC productivity among >60 cm DBH trees was 97.42 (± 16.73) Mg ha-1 during 1994-1999, which gradually decreased to 39.57 (± 21.54) Mg ha-1 during 2016-2021. AGC productivity negatively correlated with annual rainfall during the 2nd and 3rd-year lag (i.e., rainfall deficit decreases AGC productivity). In contrast, during 1999-2004, trees with >60 cm DBH lost about 80.94 (± 13.0), Mg ha-1 AGC. This trend was observed mainly in plot 2, that has more habitat heterogeneity compared to other plots. The loss of AGC is positively correlated with annual rainfall.We conclude that combined effects of habitat heterogeneity and variation in annual rainfall significantly impacts temporal trends in AGC dynamics .

1 P. Maria Antony, 1 A. Saravanan, 1 S. Thamizhazhagan, 1 S. Thalavaipandi, 1 P. Prasanth and 1M. Mathivanan

1ATREE's Agasthyamalai Community Conservation Centre, Manimutharu

River Tamiraparani and its associated wetlands being the lifeline of southern districts of Tamil Nadu, maintain and render several environmental services to human and other flora and fauna. Despite their services, wetlands are severely threatened due to anthropogenic activities. Since, education and awareness can aid students to learn realities, understand environmental problems and develop the knowledge and skills to help mitigate impacts, ‘Wetland ROVERS of Tamiraparani’ a year-long, field-based wetland education program for grades 6 – 9 was initiated in 2019. Sixty students and 30 teaching staff from 3 schools attended ROVERS. The framed module helped the ‘Roversians’ to explore various types of wetlands and associated landscapes comprising the Ainthinai (five landscapes) through field trips, classroom lectures, hands-on field experiments, games, art and craft through scientific enquiry. The learning outcomes were studied through an online questionnaire survey using google forms for teachers and students. A total of 13% (n=4) teaching staff and 25% (n=15) students responded to the survey from 2 schools. In the survey 24 multiple-choice questions were asked to the students to assess the understanding and knowledge of wetlands. Sixty% of the students scored 71% and above which clearly indicates that they had a better understanding of the wetlands after the program. The students and teachers also rated the activities using a 0 to 5 scale, in which bird watching was the most favourite with 95.33% rating followed by Soil Coring (91.33%), Dip Netting (90%), Nature Trail (89.33%), Physical / Chemical Parameter Measurement (89.33%), maintaining Mini-Wetlands in schools (87.33%) and Kick Netting (84%). The Roversians had visited 5 landscapes and observed more than 50 plants species and over 300 species of animals, making this program the most memorable in their life.
Keywords: Wetland Education, Tamiraparani, ROVERS, Ainthinai, Conservation