Complexity of physical features and variability in bioclimate has rendered a high degree of species and habitat diversity to the Western Ghats. However, increasing demographic pressure and changing land use have degraded the forest cover, driving a large number of specific into the vortex of extinction.
Until recently the concern of forest management was augmentation of revenue with low priority set to conservation of biodiversity and fulfilling the needs of local communities. To rectify these shortcomings and to address the challenges posed by heterogeneity of land cover and changing land use a novel and comprehensive management approach at the landscape level is sought.
Considering the current system of forest management and the changes in policies at national and international level, this book brings out the complexities involved in evolving integrated forest landscape management strategies by analyzing spatiality of biological and human ecological matrix.
The study is founded on the principles of landscape ecology. Based on morpho-pedological features, the part of southern Western Ghats in the Kerala State is divided into different landscape units. Among these, two representative landscape units of Western Anamalai region is chosen to elucidate influence of physical factors, bioclimate and anthropogenic pressure on the characteristics of natural vegetation and distribution and abundance of vertebrate fauna. Highlighting patterns of resource utilization by proximal and distant stakeholders, the book goes about identifying management zones with resource potential, conservation importance and major hindrances to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Strategies, action plans and compatible institutional mechanism are derived to manage these value based zones and to mitigate the prevalent threats.
B.R. Ramesh is Director of Research at French Institute of Pondicheery. His main research interests include biodiversity conservation, forest ecology and plant taxonomy.
Rajan Gurukkal is currently professor and Director, teaching social theory and Human ecology at school of social sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University. His research areas are socio-economic history, tribal enthropology and human geography.
The Western Ghats being one of the mega centers of biodiversity is also a water sink supporting several river systems, which are the lifelines of densely populated southern part of the Indian Peninsula. Thickly wooded catchments of these rivers with ample moisture are being subjected to heavy anthropogenic pressures. This has resulted in not only the degradation and loss of forests but also soil erosion and silting up or rivers and reservoirs. The State Department of Forest, the principal agency in charge of the management of forests, has been adopting measures of protection and conservation of the forests of Western Ghats since several decades, but with limited success that it owes to obsolescence. There have been efforts to generate scientific inputs to update the methods of forest management, thanks to the research efforts of several research institutions. Nonetheless, the national experience is that the forest management in the country has always been lagging behind in adopting ecologically rationalized strategies of protection and conservation.
The French Institute of Pondicherry (FIP) has been undertaking several scientific studies of forests in the southern states particularly, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, some of them as occasioned by projects of the Forest Department itself. FIP has in the process generated considerable knowledge about the biodiversity richness of the forests and their ecological services. Some of the outputs like vegetation maps, atlas on distribution of endemic trees, plant identification tools and several research articles and reports have rendered the latest scientific knowledge plausible as basis for evolving appropriate conservation strategies for the Forest Department.
The World Bank project, "forest landscape analysis of the Western Ghats" carried out for the Kerala Forest Department (KFD) in collaboration with school of social sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, took us beyond our previous studies in terms of objectives, scope and methodological perspectives. A modified and extended version of the project report on the landscape management, the present book seeks to provide scientific insights of landscape perspective that signifies a comprehensive ecological approach to biodiversity conservation and an effective planning strategy for natural resources management. Interdisciplinary in approach, the landscape perspective further making headway into the forest-people interface, a site where the natural as well as social converged and intersected, the book raises seminal questions concerning ecology on the one hand human ecology on the other. Drawing closer to the complex nature of socio-economic relations and ecological processes our standpoint of ecological critique and critical strategies of protection change substantially. The methodology adopted in the book for delineating natural forest landscape, analysis of biological and human ecological matrix and strategic landscape management is hoped to serve as guideline to a wider clientele of forest managers as well as forestry students. The scientific underpinnings of landscape analysis and socioeconomic issues dealt in different chapters of the book would also benefit landscape ecologists, social scientists and policy makers.
The landscape study would not have been possible with out the support of KFD. We express our sincere gratitude particularly to senior forest officers like Mr. K. Balachandran Thambi, Mr. V. Gopinathan, Dr. Brandon S. Coorie, Mr. Winston S. Suiting and Mr. Om Prakash Kaler for their guidance from the forester's perspective. For the field level support and sharing information about forest management, we are grateful to the local officers viz. Mr. Shrawan Kumar Verma, Dr. Induchoodan, Mr. M.I.Vargeese, Mr. Murali, Mr. V.J. George, Mr. John Augustine Nirmal and Mr. Cherian Kunju.
Dr. J.P. Muller, Director of French Institute is the main source of inspiration to make this book possible. We appreciate our colleagues especially Mr. S. Ramalingam, Dr. N. Ayyappan, Dr. Santoshgouda Patil, Mr. Champak Reddy and N. Barathan for their valuable help during the field work or at various stages of completion of the book.
Above all we would like to express our immense gratitude to our Adivasi companions who helped us in a multitude of ways along with, watchers of the Forest Department during our extended field visits to remote forest and often challenging terrains at inhospitable weather conditions. But for their compassion and assistance this travails of landscape would not have arrived destination.
Last but not the least we thank all the contributors of the book whose chapters embodying original research findings make the book matter.
Earth is the only planet known to sustain life. Yet, human actions are progressively reducing the planet's life supporting capacity. The combined destructive impact of a large majority which is struggling to stay live and a few minority which are consuming most of the world's resources are undermining the very means by which all can survive and flourish. Humanity's relationship with the environment will continue to deteriorate until a new international economic order is established, population stabilize and sustainable modes of development become the way of life rather than exceptions.
Conservation of Natural resources is pre requisite to the sustainable development. This in concrete term means- maintenance of essential eco systems-Forests, Fresh water and Marine; preservation of genetic diversity; and sustainable utilization of species.
India is one of the 16 mega Biodiversity countries of the world and the Western Ghats constitute one of the Bio diversity hot spots. Increasing demographic pressure and changing landscape has caused considerable degradation of this unique eco system. Consequently the ecological services rendered by Western Ghats have suffered as serious set back.
Management of such eco system has to be people centric and must carry them along for a meaningful implementation. With this in view landscape approach has been found to be most appropriate. Forests constitute the main natural resources of the region and the home for biodiversity, of which many species are endemic to the area. Its sustainable management is a challenge to the foresters.
The book "FOREST LANDSCAPES OF SOUTHERN WESTERN GHATS, INDIA" provides a critical analysis of landscape for bio diversity conservation and in turn the management needs.
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