Conservation and Sustainable Management of Local Hotspots
of Biodiversity

T.V.Ramachandra            B.Setturu             S.Vinay        N.M.Tara            M.D.Subashchandran             N.V.Joshi

Introduction

Ecosystems are the distinct biological entities that sustain the biosphere and are char-acterized by a range of functions: nutrient cycling, bio-geochemical cycle, hydrologic cycling. The conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems are the vital components in the pursuit of ecologically sound, economically viable and socially acceptable development goals. This requires an understanding of the complex func-tioning of ecosystems, diversity of resources, values, ecological services and their significant ability in influencing climate at local as well as global scale. In this regard, an integrated holistic approach considering all components and functions of the ecosystems is quintessential for the developmental planning. Ecosystem conser-vation has become a challenging task in the face of increasing human pressures due to unplanned activities [1]. Large-scale land-cover transformations have resulted in the enhanced instances of human–animal conflicts, conversion of perennial streams to seasonal streams and affected the livelihood of dependent population with the impaired biological and economic productivities [2]. Decision-making based on the biophysical, economic and socio-cultural information provides an opportunity to overcome these constraints while ensuring the sustainability of natural resources [3]. Sustainable landscape planning aims for stability in ecological, physical and social systems (cultural, economic functions) by maintaining the sustainability of natural resources with intergeneration equity [1]. Prioritization of sensitive regions for conservation [4] through a multidisciplinary approach is widely accepted norm to identify hotspots of biodiversity. Ecologically sensitive region (ESR) is a bio-climatic unit (as demarcated by entire landscape) wherein human impacts may cause irreversible changes in the structure of biological communities (as evident in num-ber/composition of species and their relative abundances) and their natural habi-tats. A range of conservation actions being practiced includes protecting altitudinal gradients, sacred patches of forests, riverine corridors [5, 6] and participatory or incentive-based instruments at the local scale [7, 8]. In addition, the local conserva-tion endeavours involving effective strategic landscape planning processes help in mitigating the impacts of climate changes [9, 10].
The spatial conservation planning considers ESR based on both ecological and cultural dimensions. Ecological dimension refers to the natural environment such as ecosystems and ecological processes, while cultural dimension refers to the political, social, technological and economic aspects. In India, section 5(1) of Environment Protection Act 1986 (EPA), the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) stipulates the location of industries or implementation of developmen-tal projects based on the ecological sensitivity or fragility of a region considering permanent and irreparable loss of extant life forms, or significant damage to the natural processes of evolution and speciation [11]. Eco-sensitive regions have to be determined based on biological, economic, socio-cultural values depending upon the context and the area or location for conservation [12]. ESRs are the ‘unique’ areas of ecological and economic importance, vulnerable to even mild disturbances, irreplace-able if destroyed and hence demand conservation [13]. Geo-informatics fortified with free and open-source software (FOSS) has gained significance in recent times due to the contribution to spatial conservation planning of a region by providing a consistent spatial analytical visualization and modelling abilities for an understanding of eco-logical systems [14,http://wgbis.ces.iisc.ernet.in/grass/; http://wgbis.ces.iisc.ernet.in/foss/]. Spatial decision support tools are playing an important role in increasing accountability and transparency of the planning process and leading to more eco-nomically efficient conservation actions [15]. The objective of the current endeavour is to develop spatial decision system to prioritize ecologically sensitive regions based on ecological, biological, social and geo-climatic attributes. This involved (i) demar-cation of local hotspots of biodiversity for conservation based on biotic, abiotic and social criteria with an integrated biodiversity database and management prescriptions to beneficiaries at every level from the village communities to the Government; (ii) compilation of primary data related to biodiversity, ecology, energy, hydrology and social aspects and (iii). Development of a comprehensive management framework with measures to mitigate forest loss and attain sustainable growth and support to preserve biodiversity.

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Citation : T.V.Ramachandra, B.Setturu, S.Vinay, N.M.Tara, M.D.Subashchandran, N.V.Joshi
* Corresponding Author :
Dr. T.V. Ramachandra
Energy & Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – 560 012, India.
Tel : +91-80-2293 3099/2293 3503 [extn - 107],      Fax : 91-80-23601428 / 23600085 / 23600683 [CES-TVR]
E-mail : cestvr@ces.iisc.ernet.in, energy@ces.iisc.ernet.in,     Web : http://wgbis.ces.iisc.ernet.in/energy, http://ces.iisc.ernet.in/grass
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