Sustaining Biodiversity Conservation in Human-Modified Landscapes in the Western Ghats: Remnant Forests Matter

M. O. Anand, Jagdish Krishnaswamy, Ajith Kumar, Archana Bali  | 2010


Human-modified tropical landscapes under semi-natural or agro-ecosystems often harbor biodiversity of significant conservation value. In the Western Ghats of India, these ecosystems also provide connectivity between protected areas and other remnant forests. We investigated the conservation value of these landscapes and agro-ecosystems using results from 35 studies covering 14 taxonomic groups. Large, conspicuous taxonomic groups and tree-covered land-use types have received much focus in this area of research in the Western Ghats. We computed a response ratio defined as the log ratio of species richness in human land use to species richness in forest control site from 17 studies. In a meta-analysis, we investigated variation of this ratio across studies with respect to three variables: taxonomic group, the land-use type sampled and the extent of forest cover within the study landscape. Higher forest cover within the landscape emerged as a major positive influence on biodiversity in human-modified landscapes for vertebrates and vegetation while no patterns emerged for invertebrates. Our results suggest that loss of remnant forest patches from these landscapes is likely to reduce biodiversity within agro-ecosystems and exacerbate overall biodiversity loss across the Western Ghats. Conservation of these remnant forest patches through protection and restoration of habitat and connectivity to larger forest patches needs to be prioritized. In the densely populated Western Ghats, this can only be achieved by building partnerships with local land owners and stakeholders through innovative land-use policy and incentive schemes for conservation.