Socio-cultural protection of endemic trees in humanised landscape

Abstract

Culturally protected forest patches or sacred groves have been the integral part of many traditional societies. This age old tradition is a classic instance of community driven nature conservation sheltering native biodiversity and supporting various ecosystem functions particularly hydrology. The current work in Central Western Ghats of Karnataka, India, highlights that even small sacred groves amidst humanised landscapes serve as tiny islands of biodiversity, especially of rare and endemic species. Temporal analysis of landuse dynamics reveals the changing pattern of the studied landscape. There is fast reduction of forest cover (15.14–11.02 %) in last 20 years to meet up the demand of agricultural land and plantation programs. A thorough survey and assessment of woody endemic species distribution in the 25 km2 study area documented presence of 19 endemic species. The distribution of these species is highly skewed towards the culturally protected patches in comparison to other land use elements. It is found that, among the 19 woody endemic species, those with greater ecological amplitude are widely distributed in the studied landscape in groves as well as other land use forms whereas, natural population of the sensitive endemics are very much restricted in the sacred grove fragments. The recent degradation in the sacred grove system is perhaps, due to weakening of traditional belief systems and associated laxity in grove protection leading to biotic disturbances. Revitalisation of traditional practices related to conservation of sacred groves can go a long way in strengthening natural ecological systems of fragile humid tropical landscape.

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Acknowledgments

Authors acknowledge the help provided by Mr. G. R. Rao, Mr. Vishnu Mukhri, Mr. Srikanth Naik, during the field work. Thanks to Mr. Anant Hegde Ashisar, Ex-Chairman, Western Ghats Task force, Government of Karnataka and Karnataka Forest Department for their support. Authors would like to thank Mr. Bharath Settur for his help in landuse dynamics study, and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments to improve the manuscript. This study is financially supported by Rufford Small Grant Program, UK and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.

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Correspondence to Rajasri Ray.

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Communicated by Danna J Leaman.

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Ray, R., Subash Chandran, M.D. & Ramachandra, T.V. Socio-cultural protection of endemic trees in humanised landscape. Biodivers Conserv 23, 1977–1994 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-014-0699-1

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Keywords

  • Endemics
  • Landscape management
  • Sacred grove
  • Siddapur
  • Spatial distribution
  • Species diversity