~ Pakhi Das
As part of the Coalition for Wildlife Corridors (CWC), some of my work at the NCCI is to create rich profiles of a few corridors for the tiger movement in central India. That said – I had never been to one until June this year when colleagues from WWF India and I travelled through the beautiful Sal forests in the Kanha - Achanakmar Corridor (KAC) in the Central Indian Landscape. The purpose of this field trip was to have those collating information and writing corridor profiles get a chance to co-write with the field teams and learn about ground realities from the varied stakeholders. While secondary research had been extremely useful in laying the foundation of the corridor profile, this trip would allow me to interact with experts who had been working on the ground in the corridor area for years and learn new information first-hand, making the profile robust, relevant, and up to date.
The Boundaries That Wildlife Doesn’t Recognize
The KAC spans three forest divisions of Madhya Pradesh (Kanha Buffer, East Mandla and Dindori) and four forest divisions of Chhattisgarh (Achanakamar TR buffer, Kawardha, Bilaspur and Mungeli). The corridor provides extensive habitats for various wild-animal species, including tigers, leopards, hyenas, jackals, and multiple species of deer. However, during the first nationwide lockdown due to the pandemic, herds of elephants also walked from Assam and Orrisa and found their home in the forests of this corridor. Tigers and elephants have always fascinated me, and though very slim, the possibility of sighting one or both during the trip was extremely exciting.
Rest Houses are the Best Houses
Meeting colleagues at WWF India’s field office at Bilaspur, we planned our route on a large physical map at the field office, marking rest houses for overnight stays. We spent the first night at the forest guesthouse at Shivterai, adjacent to the Kanha Achanakmar Tiger Reserve. At the guesthouse, we met some high-level forest department officials, including the APCC Wildlife, CCF Wildlife, and the Field Director and the Deputy Director of Achanakmar, with whom we discussed the aims and objectives of CWC and generally informed them of the collaborative efforts of the many partner organisations working for the conservation of wildlife corridors.
We stayed guesthouse overnight and resumed our onward journey through the dense forests at the core of ATR as well as the densely populated villages across the corridor to eventually reach the rest house at Chilpi near the Kanha Tiger Reserve with another overnight stay at the Aurapani Village.
Our journey involved many stops for either wild animal sightings in the jungle (we saw a leopard, a jackal, Malabar giant squirrels, a big herd of Indian bison and many species of birds), a quick snack by the shack, tea with the forest officers or chatting with community members residing in villages in the corridor area. I was in awe to witness how meaningful and unique relationships on the ground with forest officers or even community members are for the purpose of conservation. WWF staff have been working in the corridor for over two decades, reminiscing of early days in the field whenever we met people in our corridor travels. We were welcomed in rest houses, in the house of community members, and in the offices of divisional forest officers alike and that really felt really special.
‘Dropping knowledge’ and outreach with one bar of phone connectivity.
One other thing that was really special about this trip was this #KnowledgeSeries I did on my personal and the Global Youth Biodiversity Network social media accounts. Since I was travelling through a wildlife corridor, it seemed like a great opportunity to raise awareness about wildlife corridors in general. I used some basic media tools on Instagram to create visual posts to explain what wildlife corridors are, why they are necessary, and how rapidly increasing infrastructure development affects corridor connectivity. The series got excellent traction, and loads of people from outside the conservation community joined an exciting conservation-conversation online. You can check out the insta-stories here.
As for me, I cannot wait to see the next imperilled wild place to ground my conservation work that straddles policy and data more than fieldwork in the shade of Sal.
~ By Satvik Parashar
Cropping intensity is defined as the number of seasons in which crops are planted in a single year. An increase in tubewell construction since the 1960s has largely increased cropping intensity across India, but this has caused intense extraction of water, which has resulted in the rapid depletion of aquifers across much of India. A recent study by an interdisciplinary group of researchers estimates the association between groundwater use, crop production and groundwater depletion. This would be crucial to assess the potential production losses that may occur due to overexploitation of groundwater. The focus of the study is on winter cropped areas because winter agriculture is primarily dependent on groundwater for irrigation. The analyses is at the national level with important take-aways for central India.
Figure 1 in study: Mean winter cropped area from 2000–2001 to 2015–2016 Cropped area is shown (A) across India, (B) in a highly cropped region in Punjab, and (C) in a medium-intensity cropped region in Bihar. Pixels that were never cropped are highlighted in white, pixels that were 100% cropped across all 16 years are highlighted in dark green, and pixels for which cropped area information was not found are highlighted in gray.
How Bio-Climatic Factors and Climate Change Govern the Distribution of Major NTFP Species Distribution in Central India?
~ By Satvik Parashar
Species occurrence and their distributions are not random phenomenon but governed by a number of factors. Identifying these factors would help in predicting possible species ranges. A recent study (Yadav et al., 2021) discusses how such factors and climate change affects few of the floral species in the Central Indian Landscape that are important for Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). The six tree species considered were - Mahua (M. longifolia), Achar (B. lanzan), Aonla (E. officinalis), Behera (T. bellirica), Harad (T. chebula) and Bhutya/ Kullu (S. urens).
The study site lies in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where the species occurrence records were collected through field surveys from the districts of Hoshangabad and Mandla, between 2013 and 2017.
Predictive vegetation modelling was used to predict suitable habitats for these species under future climate scenarios for the years - 2050 and 2080. The objective of the study was to help management planning for the long-term resilience of these species.
Ecotourism as an opportunity for many challenges in lesser-known protected areas of central India landscape
~ By Pakhi Das
India has an established network of protected areas spread across the length and breadth of the country. Every year, the government proposes demarcation of more areas for creating national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, yet conservation of endangered species continues to be a national challenge. This begs the question- is the full potential of the existing protected areas in terms of conservation or tourism being utilized? A recent paper examines six lesser-known protected areas (PAs) in the state of Madhya Pradesh and determines certain site-specific challenges and potential solutions for their smooth management.
The study spans protected areas across central Indian landscape- the Dinosaur Fossil National Park, Sardarpur wildlife sanctuary, Gandhi Sagar wildlife sanctuary, Ralamandal wildlife sanctuary, Kheoni wildlife sanctuary and Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve. Key informant interviews and focused group discussions were conducted with multiple stakeholders including local community members, forest department officials and industrialists with operations in the region.
~ By Satvik Parashar
A recent study lead by Dr. Benjamin Clark explores the association of groundwater recharge and infiltration for different proportions of forest cover and agricultural land in the Central India Highlands (CIH). The evapotranspiration (ET) trade-off hypothesis helps us understand how forests and croplands differ in the ways they collect and release water. Forests have higher infiltration and ground-water recharge, but also have a higher rate of evapotranspiration. On the other hand, in paddy croplands, infiltration and recharge is slow, but they have greater depression storage and reduced ET loss when compared to forests.
The study was conducted in the Central Indian Highlands spanning the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The landscape contains nearly 8% forest and around 88% agricultural land. It is drained by five major rivers, namely Ganga, Narmada, Tapi, Godavari, and Mahanadi
Figure 1: Central Indian highlands with the five major basins delineated. Forest cover is shown in green while agriculture is in yellow derived from the European Space Agency (ESA) Land Cover 2010 data reclassified. The inset map shows the sampling area for infiltration tests and the final sampled locations. The color of the sample locations represents the land cover.
The study used hydrological modelling to determine groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration loss for each land use type and for different proportions of forest cover. Forest cover percentage ranged from 5% to 75% with intervals at 5%, along with additional two values of 2% (approximate current minimum for some basins) and 33% (India’s target COP21 NDC). Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Kfs) was used to understand the groundwater scenario for each land-use class. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Kfs is a measure of the ease with which pores of a saturated soil permit water movement. Teak plantations had the highest Kfs value of 23.2 mm/h and cropland had the least value of 6.7mm/h. Forest had a value of 20.2mm/h. Suggesting that forests and plantations allow have a higher rate at which water can move deeper into soils to replenish ground water. However, this does not account for water lost from plant use in these environments by ET, which the models need to subtract to provide management inferences. Two pathways were used to determine the hydrological impact of forest cover in CIH:
1. The first pathway analyzed hydrological change when basin mean forest cover was increased in an arbitrary, unplanned manner.
2. The second pathway involved analyzing landscape hydrology, when forest cover was increased by converting non-paddy agriculture land, so as to optimize groundwater recharge.
Project Spotlight highlights our members' work in Central India.
|Network for Conserving Central India||