14.3.1 A total of 127 bird species was recorded from Mala cluster, of these 106 were recorded during sampling of various ecotope elements. Remaining 21 species were observed while travelling through the landscape. Checklists of birds were used to calculate Mean Composite Conservation Value (MCCV) for the birds recorded in each ecotope type. Bird species encountered while travelling were not used to calculate MCCV. Composite Conservation Value (CCV), has been calculated as the sum of four conservation values, namely, mean of three geographical distribution (global, oriental and Indian), taxonomic uniqueness, habitat threat and habitat preference (Pramod et.al. 1999). Landscape elements of Mala cluster are then prioritized for their conservation importance on the basis of the mean of CCV of each landscape element. The preliminary results of such an exercise is shown in Figure 9.
MCCV of natural ecotopes is higher than that of the man-modified ecotopes. Riparian evergreen forests have higher MCCV among the natural vegetation types followed by evergreen and semi evergreen forests.
Figure 9 : Species richness (SR) and Mean Composite Conservation Value (MCCV) for ecotopes sampled for birds in Mala
Legends: RE: Riparian Evergreen; EG: Evergreen; DE: Disturbed Evergreen; RU: Rubber Plantation; SE: Semi Evergreen; HH: Human Habitation; HP: Hopea Plantation; CU: Cashew Nut Plantation; TH: Thicket; CA: Casuarina Plantation; PF: Paddy Field; AR: Arecanut garden; CO: Coconut grove; SC: Scrub. As is evident from the figure, species richness does not necessarily reflect the conservation importance of a landscape element. For example the MCCV of semi evergreen forests with 50 bird species is less than that of riparian evergreen forests with just 6 species. This is because the computation of CCV takes into consideration important ecological attributes such as geographic range (endemic versus widespread) and habitat use (specialist versus generalist). In this case riparian evergreen forests with Western Ghat endemic birds such as Bluewinged Parakeet, Small Sunbird and a habitat specialist- Malabar Whistling Thrush pulls up the MCCV even in the presence of some wide spread and generalist species such as Golden Backed Three-toed Woodpecker and Pond Heron. On the other hand, patches with high species richness such as semi evergreen forests and human habitation have low MCCV even in the presence of some common endemic species such as Bluewinged Parakeet. This is because the rest of the birds are either with wide geographic range or are habitat generalists with low CCV.
14.3.2 Use of MCCV of birds to prioritize a patch may not be always reliable as exemplified by the case of rubber plantation in Mala cluster. The MCCV of rubber plantation is on par with that of the evergreen forest. This high MCCV of rubber plantation is due to presence of very few species, for example Bluewinged Parakeet, Small Sunbird and Racket-tailed Drongo, with high CCV. The presence of forest birds in the plantation is due to its spatial proximity with patches of high conservation value such as evergreen forests. These forest birds may be using the plantation transiently while moving into other patches. The significance of man modified landscape elements with high MCCV, such as rubber plantation can be reliably understood only after repeated sampling.
14.4 Butterflies: 14.4.1 A checklist of 185 field identifiable butterfly species was prepared, of which 100 species have so far been actually recorded from the study area. The species were assigned to different ecotope types based on our earlier field observations in the Western Ghats. Of the 185 species, 154 are from the semi evergreen forests and 121 from the evergreen forests. Plantations and human habitations have less than 30 species that they can sustain on their own (Table 16).
Table 16. Family-wise species richness of butterflies in different ecotope types of Mala cluster.
14.5 Aquatic Macroinvertebrates 14.5.1 Six streams flowing through ecotopes like evergreen, semievergreen forests and human habitations were sampled for aquatic macroinvertebrates. Nineteen aquatic insect families and two families of fresh water molluscs were recorded during the study period. Insect fauna was composed of mayflies (Ephemereoptera), dragon and damselflies (Odonata), stoneflies (Plecoptera), aquatic bugs (Hemiptera), caddiesflies (Trichoptera), beetles (Coleoptera) and flies (Diptera). The presence of insect families like Leptophlebiidae, Potamanthidae (Ephemeroptera), Perlidae (Plecoptera), Chlorocyphidae, Euphidae (Odonata) is indicative of the unpolluted nature of the streams of Mala cluster. It is worth noting that a mayfly family rare to Western Ghats – Potamanthidae was recorded from the stream flowing through Sri Brahmanath, a scared grove. The three fresh water molluscan species recorded from these streams are Thiara scabra, Sulcospira huegeli (Fam: Thiaridae) and Lamellidens marginalis (Fam: Unionidae).
14.6.1 Since there is no historical data available on changes in biodiversity levels, the only source of information is accounts by knowledgeable individuals. One of the most knowledgeable of these is Mr. Kunjira Moolya, who reports either disappearance, or drastic decline in the populations of following plant species: Kabale, Nare, Kaadu Karuvolu, Adka baare (Xeromphis uliginosa), Kaat Peeray and the following fish species: Peruvolu (Tor kudri), Murante, Vaateharolu, Heekote, Baale meenu (Wallago attu), Mugudu (Clarius batrachus), Poomeenu, Puriyol (Anguilla bengalensis), Manjol sede, Madenji (Channa orientalis).
14.6.2 A number of traditional practices of protection of sacred animals, plants, groves and tanks have played a role in maintenance of biodiversity. Discussions have provided significant understanding of various forces impacting these practices and their future. For instance, a section of immigrants to the village in the last thirty years are Christians from the neighbouring state of Kerala. They do not observe the traditional taboo on hunting of gaur (Bos gaurus), an animal related to cattle who are venerated by Hindus.
15.0.1 Health status and health care have undergone drastic changes over the last fifty years, primarily because of (1) Elimination of serious diseases such as smallpox and malaria, and (2) Replacement of local health care systems grounded in herbal medicines by modern allopathic system. Where traditional health care continues to be practiced as in places like Mala, it is affected by decreasing availability of medicinal plants and animals. Another major change is the increasing use of pesticides whose poisonous effects in high dosages are noticeable, though there is no understanding of any possible effects in low doses. Herbal treatment of livestock diseases may continue as well, even more than human diseases as in Mala.
15.1.1 If possible measurements may be directed towards estimation of pollutants such as pesticides in water and food, as well as in air. Measurements may also be undertaken of vector populations such as mosquitoes.
15.2Joint Field Visits
15.2.1 Joint visits have been useful in assessing depletion of medicinally useful plants and animals from different ecotope elements; as also in assessing the role of traditional conservation practices in maintenance of biodiversity.
15.3.1 Discussions with herbal medicinemen, as well as allopathic medical practitioners and other community members suggest that potential health effects of pesticides in water and food are of concern to some people. These discussions also brought out the history of the outbreak of a relatively new viral disease, Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) in some neighbouring areas. Locally this disease is known as monkey disease since it kills primates. Apparently the outbreak of this disease is linked to increasing incidence of tick bites to people. This increase in tick bites is related to increasing infestation of cattle by ticks, in turn caused by spread of the weed Eupatorium in forests subjected to overexploitation.
Local level assessments furnish a very rich set of data on historical trends and forces driving these trends. People are in a position to visualize the future as an extrapolation of these trends and to project scenarios of what may happen in coming years. What they are unable to incorporate are possible consequences of radically new technologies. With this limitation, they responded when asked to construct the following three sets of scenarios: (i) Business as usual, (ii) Worst that may happen (iii) Best that they can hope for.
A Conservationist Scenario
If a conservationist approach is adopted by returning to the cultivation of traditional crop varieties, cutting down the Acacia and Casuarina plants from the hill tops and permitting the grasslands to regenerate; by planting wild plants such as Artocarpus hirsutus, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Mangifera indica, Dillenia pentagyna, Garcina cambogia, Terminalia bellirica etc. instead of practicing monoculture cultivation; by regulating the digging of more and more open wells and bore wells and equitable sharing of available sources of water; by controlled burining of grasslands for regeneration of grass in the subsequent year etc., the future scenario is likely to improve the life of people of Mala.
These are best generated through leisurely interviews person to person, or in small or larger groups representing the various segments of population, women and men, different age groups. These should cover all the sectors, one by one: soil, water (streams, tanks, ground water), land use, agriculture, tree crops, forests (natural evergreen forest, scrub land, forestry plantations), grasslands (grasslands in midst of forest, village commons), livestock, fish, biodiversity, health. Many different perspectives, often conflicting will emerge. Space should be provided to allow them to emerge, without the investigators injecting any of their own biases in recording the scenarios.
17. VALUES AND ASPIRATIONS
17.0.1 A second series of similar interviews would focus on values people assign to various environmental resources and processes and what they aspire to see as maintained and changed. There are three major themes: (a) Kinds of living organisms, species, cultivars, (b) Ecotope types, specific localities (c) Processes such as recharge or withdrawal from ground water, free range grazing by cattle, dry season forest fires, use of pesticides.
17.1 Kinds of organisms
17.1.1 The discussions on kinds of living organisms people value should begin with a complete inventory of the types recognised; categories such as trees, grasses, birds (which may include bats or even flying squirrels), fish (which may include shrimp), individual species of plants, birds etc, and any varieties within species (particularly in case of cultivated plants and domesticated animals). This should be followed by those that they value positively, in order of priority, as well as those that they consider undesirable, again, in order of priority. This should be supplemented by a discussion on any culturally conditioned values relating to these organisms; e.g. while bonnet macaque is considered a great nuisance because of their destructions of field and orchards, they are considered sacred and are not killed because of their association with Lord Rama. The final set of discussions should pertain to what steps at either conservation or elimination of any of these species they would like to see initiated, and how these steps may be compatible, or incompatible with their other aspirations. For instance, a farmer may wish to see several traditional cultivars of paddy maintained on farm, but may not wish to do so on his own farm which he wants to convert to arecanut plantation which is a more lucrative use of land.
17.2.1 The next theme for a whole series of discussions would pertain to the localities, their current pattern of use and biological communities they harbour, their value, and the preference for the kinds of use they should be put to and the kinds of biological communities they should be managed to harbour. The map of local names of all topographic elements provides the point of reference for this discussion (Figure 5).
17.2.2 A variety of perspectives may emerge. For instance, some farmers are unhappy at the ongoing conversion of paddy fields into arecanut orchards and would like to ban such changes in land use. However, this would tend to freeze the social and economic divisions, since most paddy fields are owned by poorer farmers from communities with a lower social status, and because paddy yields far lower financial returns than arecanut cultivation. The paddy field owners would therefore like to promote such conversions. Others would like to see grasslands enclosed by forests maintained since these provide grazing for wild herbivores such as Gaur, who otherwise tend to raid crops.
17.3 Ecological processes
17.3.1 The last series of discussions would pertain to a series of important ecological processes, such as encroachment on village commons for habitation, encroachment on forests for cultivations, tapping of ground water by borewells, dynamiting and other destructive methods of fishing, promotion or suppression of fire in forest areas, free range grazing by cattle. Perspectives should be generated on the manner in which people view the consequences of these processes in various localities, and their preferences as to how these processes should be managed and how such management relates to their other aspirations. For instance, in a discussion involving members of the Panchayat (= Village Council), some felt that the Panchayat should demarcate areas in which no further bore wells should be dug; others disagreed. On the other hand, they were unanimous that fishing using dynamite should be banned.
18. CONFLICTS AND CONSENSUS
18.0.1 An exhaustive documentation of the varying perspectives of the people relating to management of species, localities and ecological processes would bring out instances of congruencies as well as divergences. The next step is to document these and then hold group discussions either to confirm congruencies, or more significantly, to see whether the divergences can be narrowed down and some perspectives acceptable to all parties achieved. If there are some irreconcilable divergences, then it should be recorded that the proponents agree to disagree. This exercise would set the stage for a statement of broadly what the community members would like to see happen in terms of the local biodiversity, the various ecotopes and the key ecological processes.
19. RESPONSE OPTIONS
19.0.1 The concluding step of the assessment would be a series of discussions at individual, small group and finally the entire village assembly level of the options available to translate what community members would thus like to see happen into practice. These options would relate to actions that may be taken by individuals (e.g. farmers deciding to continue cultivation of a traditional cultivar of paddy in a small plot on his own land), groups of people (e.g. members of Moghera community deciding to abandon the tradition of ritual communal hunts twice a year), government functionaries (e.g. village agricultural extension workers deciding to draw people’s attention to toxic effects of certain pesticides), local institutions (e.g. local farmers’ co-operative deciding to promote drip instead of sprinkler system of irrigation), formal governmental institutions at local level (e.g. local village council deciding to ban use of dynamite in any water body within village boundary) or governmental institutions at state level (e.g. agriculture department deciding to give special reward to people for maintaining traditional crop cultivars on their farm etc). The options may also include policy changes that may be recommended at various levels, e.g. at local government level on tapping of ground water through bore wells, or at state government level on sharing of revenue obtained through levying collection changes on commercial harvests of medicinal plants.
20. FOLLOW UP AND OUTREACH
20.0.1 Finally there should be an attempt to put into operation as many of the response options arrived at as possible, at local, state and national level by sharing the findings of the assessment exercises, both in local languages, and in English through a variety of channels. These channels could include local level discussions such as meetings of farmers’ co-operatives, village council or annual school day; special exhibitions arranged at annual village festival, articles in local, state and national level newspapers, discussions at special state level meetings such as Wild Life Week celebrations, material put on web page etc.
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