As preserved patches of natural vegetation, assumed greater importance with the arrival of agriculture. Rapid spread of agriculture and pastoralism necessitated clearances of vast stretches of primeval forests



Yüklə 121.12 Kb.
tarix18.08.2017
ölçüsü121.12 Kb.
Round-1

Biodiversity and Ecological Aspects of Sacred Groves of India: An Overview
Suggested title: SACRED GROVE STUDIES: LOOKOUT FOR NEW DIRECTIONS
Introduction
Sacred groves can be defined as segments of the landscape, containing trees and other forms of life and geographical features, that are delimited and protected by human societies because it is believed that to keep them in a relatively undisturbed state is an expression of important relationship to the divine or to nature (Hughes and Chandran, 1998). International Union for Conservation of Nature and natural Resources (IUCN), treats sacred groves under sacred natural sites (SNS) which can be clarified as “natural areas of special spiritual significance to peoples and communities. They include natural areas recognized as sacred by indigenous and traditional peoples, as well as natural areas recognized by institutionalized religions or faiths as places for worship and remembrance” (IUCN, 2005).
Sacred groves per se, as preserved patches of natural vegetation, assumed greater importance with the arrival of agriculture. Rapid spread of agriculture and pastoralism necessitated clearances of vast stretches of primeval forests. The fear of offending the gods of nature and the adverse consequences of forest clearance in the form of soil erosion, drying up of watersheds, impoverishment of biodiversity, changes in microclimatic conditions, pest pressures etc. would have propelled the emergence of sacred grove-centered worship Sacred groves existed in the past or continue to exist today in many parts of the world, and among people with many religions and forms of social and economic organization. They were preserved in the name of gods in ancient Asia, Africa, Europe, America and Austro-pacific region (Hughes and Chandran, 1998).
Throughout history, many peoples customarily respected sacred groves. These were sections of forest where spiritual beings were believed to reside, and where ordinary activities such as tree felling, gathering of wood, plants and leaves, hunting fishing, grazing of domestic animals, lowing or harvesting of crops, and building ordinary dwellings (Hughes and Swan, 1986). Indigenous cultures almost all over the world, worshipped deities associated with mountains and cliffs, rivers, springs and lakes, patches of forests, caves etc. It may be fear or gratitude or devotion which prompted people to assign sacredness to various natural sites or specific species of trees or animals. The role of these natural sacred sites is attracting increasing interest in international organizations such as UNESCO, the World Wide Fund for Nature etc. (Hay-Edie and Hadley, 1988). Sacred groves can be defined as segments of the landscape, containing trees and other forms of life and geographical features, that are delimited and protected by human societies because it is believed that to keep them in a relatively undisturbed state is an expression of important relationship to the divine or to nature (Hughes and Chandran, 1998). International Union for Conservation of Nature and natural Resources (IUCN), treats sacred groves under sacred natural sites (SNS) which can be clarified as “natural areas of special spiritual significance to peoples and communities. They include natural areas recognized as sacred by indigenous and traditional peoples, as well as natural areas recognized by institutionalized religions or faiths as places for worship and remembrance” (IUCN, 2005).
Sacred groves per se, as preserved patches of natural vegetation, assumed greater importance with the arrival of agriculture. Rapid spread of agriculture and pastoralism necessitated clearances of vast stretches of primeval forests. The fear of offending the gods of nature and the adverse consequences of forest clearance in the form of soil erosion, drying up of watersheds, impoverishment of biodiversity, changes in microclimatic conditions, pest pressures etc. would have propelled the emergence of sacred grove-centered worship Sacred groves existed in the past or continue to exist today in many parts of the world, and among people with many religions and forms of social and economic organization. They were preserved in the name of gods in ancient Asia, Africa, Europe, America and Austro-pacific region (Hughes and Chandran, 1998).
The groves started shrinking in size with the expansion of agriculture. The growth of cities and increased use of resources from the groves with the militaristic expansion of states in ancient days caused decline of groves in ancient Europe. Arrival of dogmatic religions that professed faith in one Supreme God decried and demolished many of these “paganic” (linked to rural folks) and ‘heathenish” (meaning anyone not a Jew, Christian or Muslim; irreligious, uncivilized etc.) worship places in different parts of the world, particularly in Europe and West Asia. Cultural changes leading to the identification of woodland deities with the high gods of the Hindu pantheon, an ongoing process in India, has resulted in the growth of temple-centered worship to the decline of groves. The greatest threat to sacred groves has been economic exploitation since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Colonial times and afterwards, sacred groves in India were included in forests managed by the Forest Department, and subjected to various extraction pressures or clear-cut to be replaced by plantations (Chandran and Hughes, 1997; Chandran, 1998; Hughes and Chandran, 1998).
Sacred grove culture in India has pre-Vedic roots; the Vedic people though personified elemental forces of nature as divinities had no association with sacred grove culture of non-Vedic inhabitants (Chandran, 2005). The institution of sacred grove, is on the wane in India, its last important stronghold, though it is still very much a living tradition here. Called variously as jankor, sarana (Central India), jaher (West Bengal), orans (Rajasthan), kavus (Kerala), deorai (Maharashtra), devarakadus (Kodagu), lakyntang (Meghalaya), kans (parts of Karnataka) etc sacred groves also have been reported from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and other north-eastern states. The numbers of groves in these states/regions are in hundreds or in thousands. Nevertheless there is also urgent need to systematically inventories the sacred groves in various parts of the country (Malhotra, 1998).
Sacred groves in the past were larger, each from few hectares to several hundred hectares in area. In the Sorab taluk in the central Western Ghats region of Karnataka, 171 kans covered over 13,000 ha of land. The largest of these was the Halesorabkan having an area of about 400 ha (Brandis and Grant, 1868). The remains of such kans can be found to this day in the region. These groves once formed more than 10% of the present geographical area of Sorab, and they were in addition to more extensive, fire- prone secondary forests, where biomass was extracted by the people (Chandran, 2005). The kan of Mulgund village in the adjoining Siddapur taluk covered 1039 ha, at the time when a forest working was formulated for extracting trees from the grove (Shanmukhappa, 1966). Most groves perished in due course of time due to reasons such as forest reservation by the state, beginning in the British period. The constitution of state-reserved forests replaced the earlier community based management systems. Later the groves were subjected to extraction pressures under organized forest working plans. Cultural changes leading to identification of woodland deities with gods of the Hindu pantheon was often followed by neglect and decline of those groves which continued to be under community control. Today large and in tact sacred groves are few and far between, as is the case in Uttara Kannada. An effort was made to reconstruct the traditional land use system in a 25 sq.km area (when the lands were under community control) in the Siddapur taluk of Uttara Kannada, using historical records, forest working plans and folk history. It was found that about 6% of the landscape was under sacred kans. This was probable because Siddapur taluk is located next to Sorab in the central Western Ghats, where a similar system of sacred groves could have existed in most places, at altitudes below 1000 m, suitable for human settlements, shifting cultivation and other land uses. Presently, in the same focal area of 25 sq.km, only 0.31% of the land is under sacred groves (Chandran and Gadgil 1988). Many isolated large groves, however, continue to exist in many parts of the country. The Hariyali sacred grove in the Chamoli district of Garhwal Himalaya is reported to be 550 ha in size (Sinha and Maikhuri, 1988). A grove in Bhimashankar in Pune district is stated to be over 700 ha (Borges and Rane, 1992). Sacred groves in Meghalaya varied in size from 0.01 ha to 900 ha (Tiwari et al., 1998). The smaller sizes and concomitant species shrinkage notwithstanding, the present day groves are often relics of past vegetation than secondary forests and many rare elements of biodiversity are still found in them.
The groves started shrinking in size with the expansion of agriculture. The growth of cities and increased use of resources from the groves with the militaristic expansion of states in ancient days caused decline of groves in ancient Europe. Arrival of dogmatic religions that professed faith in one Supreme God decried and demolished many of these “paganic” (linked to rural folks) and ‘heathenish” (meaning anyone not a Jew, Christian or Muslim; irreligious, uncivilized etc.) worship places in different parts of the world, particularly in Europe and West Asia. Cultural changes leading to the identification of woodland deities with the high gods of the Hindu pantheon, an ongoing process in India, has resulted in the growth of temple-centered worship to the decline of groves. The greatest threat to sacred groves has been economic exploitation since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Colonial times and afterwards, sacred groves in India were included in forests managed by the Forest Department, and subjected to various extraction pressures or clear-cut to be replaced by plantations (Chandran and Hughes, 1997; Chandran, 1998; Hughes and Chandran, 1998).
The scientific community today recognizes this ancient system of preserving sacred groves amidst man-modified landscape elements as one of the tenets of sustainable use of natural resources harmonized with biodiversity conservation. The spiritual ties that humans established from ancient times with prime patches of forests ensured not only the long term subsistence interest of local people but also kept going the dynamics of local ecosystems. Their many gifts, especially water and non-timber products and the congenial microclimate they provided for local cultivation systems, earned a prime place for sacred groves among the traditional village communities, especially of the Indian highlands.
Scientific studies on the sacred groves of India got a fillip with the pioneering work of Gadgil and Vartak (1975, 1976, 1980). For the first time the groves were studied in a holistic way encompassing biologic, ecologic and socio-cultural perspectives. More studies followed and several conferences held at nationally and internationally on sacred groves and natural sacred sites resulting in sudden growth of literature on sacred groves over the last three decades. Most studies hitherto can be broadly categorized into:

  • Inventory and documentation

  • Cultural aspects

  • Biodiversity and ecological assessment

  • Conservation status and conservation programmes

  • Social and policy framework

Studies continue today on a much trodden path, with not many variations; basically they are region-wise inventories dealing with numbers, area, major elements of biodiversity, especially of higher plants and vertebrates, cultural aspects etc. They have not met with the expected success, to produce action plans to salvage and restore scores of these relic forests with their rare biota and revive their ecological functions reminiscent of the primeval forests. The governments of the states and centre are not sufficiently enthused to formulate plans for these precious bits of forests. Sacred grove studies are in need of new directions to provide the necessary blueprints for future conservation programs. Strengthening sacred-grove centered approach for revival of especially village ecosystems in highlands and plains alike, through people’s participation, irrespective of caste or community, can certainly invigorate India’s rural economy while also giving the world a decentralized alternative path for biodiversity conservation, raising also fresh hopes for local level actions for mitigating global climatic change.


Sacred grove studies can take new directions only after a comprehensive appraisal of the work carried out already. We have therefore attempted to review the nature of works carried out hitherto in the country. It needs to be emphasized that the review is more on the kinds of studies carried out than on individual works per se. This review, hopefully, would prompt researches to open new vistas in sacred grove studies aimed at unraveling more on their functional aspects and ecosystem services, using well designed, locality-specific methods. More focus in future should be on aspects of soil and water conservation, hydrological features, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, lower plant groups, invertebrates and micro-organisms. As their size-related effectiveness in floral and faunal conservation in humanized landscapes etc. Such studies could ultimately lead to a more rational approach to the much needed conservation and restoration of sacred groves, a heritage that is fading away fast even from their last bastions in the Indian highlands. The scientific community has to spend more time on discussions and formulation of suitable locality specific methods for sacred grove studies to achieve the new objectives.

Biodiversity assessment
Most sacred grove studies so far have focused mainly on biodiversity aspects. Despite their fragmentation and isolation these cultural and biological relics are considered repositories of rare species in comparison to adjoining landscape elements (Bhakat 2004, Bhagwat 2005,Khan et al 2008). Inventorisation of floral elements of the groves include species composition and richness, dominance, distribution, rarity and endemism etc (Jain 1983, Vartak and Kumbhojkar 1984, Puspanghadan et al 1996, Upadhaya et al. 2003, Amirthlinagam 2004, Khumbongmayum et al. 2005, ). Studies on faunal diversity of sacred groves are rather scanty.

Vegetation
Sacred groves often present characteristic vegetation of a region or its’ remains. Sacred groves of Meghalaya, for instance, represent subtropical wet hill evergreen forest type, characterized by Cinnamomum, Schima, Castanopsis, Syzygium etc. The groves preserve the basic nature of the vegetation, that north-east geographic region is indeed a confluence of the floral elements of the tropical and temperate as well of Sino-Himalayan and Burma-Malayan regions (Jamir, 2003; Upadhaya et al, 2004). Down in the south, the Eastern Ghat groves have dry evergreen forest vegetation with characteristic two-layered canopy, dominated by members of Fabaceae, Moraceae, Capparaceae, Ebenaceae, Rubiaceae and Rutaceae (Parthasarathy, 1997; Sukumaran, 2005, 2007). In Kerala, the wider distribution of sacred groves reflects the varied vegetation profile of the state. Grove flora consists of wet evergreen, semi evergreen, deciduous as well as swamp members depending on their locations. The highland groves have typical Western Ghats forest type vegetation whereas, groves in mid altitudes present varied range of vegetation from evergreen to semi evergreen forests including Myristica swamps. The swamps are dominated by exclusive tree species such as Myristica magnifica (Endangered) and Gymnacranthera canarica of Myristicaceae, one of the most primitive families of angiosperms. Some of the swampy groves in Uttara Kannada are the only repositories in central Western Ghats of Syzygium travancoricum of and Madhuca bourdillnonii (both Critically Endangered). Groves in coastal Kerala harbour species like Samadera indica, Vatica chinensis and Calophyllum inophyllum. Sacred groves project a hopeful situation, being sometimes the last refuge for several plant species, which have almost been wiped out due to massive anthropogenic pressure. Similarly a number of endemic species which have narrow distribution range and high sensitivity to spatio-temporal changes are often subject to extinction due to many adverse activities. Being a part of relic vegetation as well as under community based conservation, or under forest department jurisdiction at present, groves often act as refugia for scores of rare and threatened species (see (Table1 for details- the table may be deleted). Even, plants often thought as extinct have been reported from the groves in Kerala and Karnataka (Induchoodan 1996, Pushpangadan et al 1998, Jayaraman 2004; Chandran et al 2008).

It has been assumed that the microclimatic conditions of the larger groves are congenial for the climax vegetation of a region. The smaller groves, however, subjected to isolation and higher human pressures tend to have a greater mix of secondary and invasive species of plants (Induchoodan 1996, Ramanujam 2001). Many groves are reasonably good for sustaining plant communities which are stable and regenerating as can be assessed from the abundance of seedlings and saplings (Chandrashekara et al 1998, Mishra et al. 2005, Khumbongmayum 2006, Laloo 2006,). Canopy gaps created by natural tree falls increase survival percentage of seedlings of grove species due to better light conditions at ground level and provide suitable microenvironment favoring rapid growth of ground layer plants (Khumbongmayum et al. 2005, Laloo et al 2006). Higher intensities of disturbance by humans, particularly by tree cutting reduces canopy cover increasing light and temperature intensity at ground level, result in proliferation of pioneer and invasive species, reduced tree diversity, increased dominance of few families and contagious distribution (Rao et al. 1990, Chandrashekhara and Shankar 1998, Mishra et al. 2004).



Lower plants

Most sacred grove studies hitherto dealt with mainly higher plant species, though they could harbor interesting lower plants. Brown et al (2006) studied 25 sacred groves of Western Ghats for macrofungi and reported distinct assemblage of macrofungal members from these sites. The abundance of leaf litter and dead wood in the sacred groves are responsible for the unique assemblage of these decomposer fungi. Their morphotypes and sporcoarps were in greater abundance than in the neighbouring coffee plantations. Apart from richness of organic matter the sacred groves are free from application of fungicides. In another study in Mawphlang sacred grove, Meghalaya, 48 fungal species have been detected among which Aspergillus clavatus, A. flavus, A. niger, Cladosporium herbarum, Fusarium moniliforme are dominant members (Kayang 2006). Fissidens kammadensis, a new moss species has been recorded from a sacred grove of Kasargode district of Kerala (Manju et al.2008)



Faunal significance
A new frog species Philautus sanctisilvaticus has been reported from Amarkantak sacred grove in 1987. Deb et. al (1997) in their study at western Midnapur district of West Bengal, mentioned about 22 land bird species in sacred grove areas among which four species (Yellow legged green pigeion, Purple rumped sunbird, Coppersmith and Large Indian parakeet) were found only in the groves. Similarly, around 107 species of birds were reported in a study covering 25km2 of rural landscape, dominated by agricultural fields, and scrub vegetation, but studded with the relics of several small sacred groves measuring mostly fractions of a hectare, in the Siddapur taluk of central Western Ghats. These fragments had some of the typical birds of evergreen forests such as Crested goshawk, Lesser serpent eagle, Blue-eared kingfisher, Brown-headed stork-billed kingfisher, Crimson-throated barbet and Nilgiri flowerpecker. The cool shade throughout the year, higher humidity, and the availability of fleshy fruits may be some of the reasons for these special birds to occur within the sacred groves (Chandran and Gadgil 1993). A study from Kerala by associating the Nilgiri langur, an Endangered primate, and other rare vertebrates like, Slender Loris, Pangolin, White bellied sea eagle with the groves also justifies their role as refugia for animals Nilgiri langur. His study covering 578 groves listed 11 species of amphibians, 23 species of reptiles, 178 species of birds and 24 species of mammals (Jayaraman 2004).
Much less are the studies on invertebrates. A study on the distribution of earthworms in a landscape of Uttarakhand revealed that Eutyphoeus was exclusively found in the ‘Hariyali’ sacred oak forest. This exclusiveness was attributed to its preference for higher soil moisture, high organic matter, lower pH and temperature and undisturbed conditions prevalent in the grove. Earthworm population dynamics was analyzed in terms of land use type, vegetation structure, moisture availability, organic matter content and C/N ratio. (Sinha et al 2003). Jayaraman’s (2004) study of 578 sacred groves in Kerala listed 117 species of butterflies and 8 species of spiders in addition to the vertebrates already mentioned earlier. In a remarkable study carried out in the Pilarkan sacred grove of Udupi district of coastal Karnataka Mumbrekar and Madhyastha (2006) found 109 species of land mollusks, among which 7 are endemics to the Western Ghats/ Peninsular India.
Economic importance
Most studies on sacred groves refer to the economic and subsistence values of sacred groves. Though there existed taboo on cutting trees a variety of non-timber forests were traditionally harvested from especially larger sacred groves. Black pepper (Piper nigrum), exported in large quantity from the South Indian west coast, from the time of the Roman empire was mainly a product of the kans of Uttara Kannada and Shimoga. The forests of the kans included various edible fruits and seeds, palm toddy, palm starch, medicinal plants etc. (Chandran and Gadgil, 1993). In fact a cornucopia of medicinal plants was reported from the sacred groves in different parts of India in various studies. Strychnos nux-vomica (Loganiaceae), Gymnema sylvestre (Asclepiadaceae), Hemidesmus indicus (Asclepiadaceae), Datura fastuosa (Solanaceae), Costus specious (Zingiberaceae), Rhus javanica (Anacardiaceae), Agapetes auriculata (Vacciniaceae), Drymaria cordata (Caryophyllaceae) are just few among the scores of medicinal plants. These plants were important in the primary health care of rural masses, and sometimes, as in the case of forest dwellers, their only source.
Of the fruit trees associated with groves may be mentioned Mangifera indica, Garcinia gummi-gatta, Phyllanthus emblica, Syzygium cumini etc., Spices such as Cinnamomum spp., Piper nigrum etc., oil yielding plants like Garcinia spp. and Madhuca indica, fibre (Caryota urens, Bombax ceiba), tan and dye yielding plants (Acacia nilotica, butea monosperma,), gum yielding plants (Acacia catechu, Bauhinia racemosa) and edible mushrooms are reported from various groves. (Table 2). Delete table)

Ecosystem functions and services
A large and in tact grove represents a healthy forest ecosystem that renders valuable ecological services like, soil, water and biodiversity conservation, nutrient cycling and temperature regulation. Carbon sequestration per unit area of the grove is expected to be greater than adjoining secondary forests, understandably due to higher biomass. The studies on ecosystem functioning and services are still in infancy; some such notable studies are referred to in Table 3. Obviously the area of a sacred grove plays a major role in ecosystem functioning and services. Small fragmented groves, just like fragmented forests, must be having limited potential in rendering services compared to larger ones. However, at a local level even these smaller groves have their own ecological roles. The groves also enhance landscape heterogeneity.
Soil conservation
The undisturbed vegetation cover of the grove plays a significant role in soil conservation. When forest litter is allowed to accumulate, organic material degrade builds the soil, which returns nutrients to the soil and to the standing biomass. In the process, many microorganisms, invertebrates, fungi etc. will flourish, and a vast array of species not indigenous to ploughed fields and secondary forests will be present in the groves (Hughes and Chandran, 1998). Rajendraprasad (1995) observed higher soil porosity and low bulk density for the soils of groves studied in Kerala compared to the soils of nearby areas in Kerala. The rich cover of leaf litter, humus and dense network of roots are important in preventing erosion and in also soil building. In mountainous terrain especially, the rich vegetation of sacred groves play crucial role in slope stabilization and soil conservation. As the runoff water is reduced, paving way for greater infiltration, soil erosion and sedimentation of downstream areas are minimized. It has been observed that, grove soil is usually rich in organic matter due to efficient decomposition of leaf litter, dead wood as well as other remnants. Water seeping out of sacred groves into the surrounding cultivation areas is considered nutrient rich by village communities. Yet well designed studies to substantiate such beliefs are very necessary.

Nutrient Cycling
Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous are major soil nutrients which are operated through biogeochemcical cycles to meet up the nutrient demands of the organisms. Litter is a vital connection between vegetation and soil for nutrient dynamics. The decomposed plant litters release the nutrients in the soil which are either taken by the plant roots or leached out. In old growth tropical forests, litter quantity and quality significantly vary from early successional stages and plantations. Rajendraprasad et al. found the linear relationship between the species richness and diversity and litter production in sacred groves. They also concluded that, grove system mimics the tropical rain forest in litter production pattern (Rajendraprasad et al. 2000). It is the type of tree species, humidity, temperature as well as soil microbial community which control the nutrient content of the litter and its release in the soil (Khiewtam and Ramakrishnan 1993, Arunachalam et al. 1998).
Arunachalam 1999, 2000 presented a perfect portrayal of sacred grove soil from North-East India, in terms of higher moisture content, a A study from north-east India presents a healthy portrayal soil nutrient status of the grove represented the picture of a healthy soil nutrient pool in the ecosystem in terms of higher moisture content, soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, C/N ratio etc.(Arunachalam 1999, 2000). Dehydrogenase activity that facilitates decomposition of litter and incorporation of nutrients into the soil, as observed in the study, was highest in the grove area, characterized by rich litter cover. Similarly, the acidic pH (pH 4.5) of the grove area was attributed to the greater production of organic acids from decomposition of diverse organic matters. Soil pH showed positive correlation with soil metabolic activities i.e. soil respiration, dehydrogenase and urease activities. Regarding microbial biomass carbon (MBC), the value was higher in the grove area in comparison to the grassland, jhum fallow and younger forest regrowth. Relatively dense growth of plants and greater accumulation of litter and fine roots favoured the growth of microbial population and accumulation of MBC in the site.
Factors like low soil temperature, high tree density, high basal area and undisturbed condition govern the fine root mass generation in the grove. Fine roots are directly responsible for efficient recycling of soil nutrients, thus preventing them from leaching out (Vishalakshi 1994). Rare though such works are, the role of the grove in maintaining tropical ecosystem through leaf litter and root dynamics in Cherrapunji, Meghalaya showed that the development and stability of a fragile rainforest ecosystem over a nutrient deficient calcareous landscape is supported by efficient nutrient cycling through leaf litter and network of fine roots developed on the soil surface. In contrast to the neighboring degraded grasslands and desertified areas, the results of rampant tree cutting, the sacred grove presents a picture of the complex climax vegetation of rain forest, thanks to traditional beliefs restricting tree cutting and biomass collection (Khiewtam and Ramakrishnan 1993)

Water conservation
Most studies associate sacred groves with perennial water sources. The Ccomparatively rich vegetation cover and thick litter cover help to regulate the runoff water thus reducing the chances of flash floods (downstream) and release it slowly during lean season. Studies in Meghalaya indicate that well preserved groves efficiently reduce the erosive power of runoff water thus preventing soil erosion and nutrient wash out (Khiewtam and Ramakrishnan 1993). Similarly, in Himalayan region, sacred groves located on steep and rugged slope towards ridge have a distinct role to regulate water flow and sedimentation (Singh et al. 1996).
In Western Ghats, most of the sacred groves are associated with perennial streams which constitute important water resources for the neighbouring communities throughout the year (Chandran and Hughes 1997). In Ratnagiri area of Maharashtra, groves are the major sources of water for villagers in summer. Perennial stream of water in Ujgaon sacred grove and traditional wells in Katavali and Vigravali sacred groves provide drinking water to the villagers from March to May every year (Godbole 2004). The sacred groves of Parinche valley in Pune, Maharashtra are present near water resources and are assumed to be responsible for water availability in lean season (Waghchaure et al 2006). Perhaps the most significant contribution of sacred grove in water conservation could be witnessed in Rajasthan, where water bodies associated with orans serve as lifeline for local inhabitants as well as livestocks. Jharan sacred grove in Jhalawar ensures the water availability of the Jhalawar city and protects the catchment of the stream from siltation (Pandey , www.p2pays.org/ref/40/39748.pdf). Similarly, Garva ji ki bani, a sacred grove in Alwar has a perennial water body used for irrigation around the year (Singh, www.globalgiving.com/pfil/1116/projdoc.doc). The Lum Shyllong-Nongkrim sacred groves in Meghalaya are the source of as many as eight streams that supply water to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya (Down to Earth, 2003).
The water retention capacity of the groves favours the occurrence of more sensitive, hygrophilous endemics. Multi-layered canopies and richness of litter cover result in higher soil moisture conditions. If we look at the distribution of endemic species in the Western Ghats, it could be seen that, the sacred groves of Central Western Ghats form the northernmost limits for most of them. The Kathalekan of Siddapur taluk, in Uttara Kannada, a sacred grove of pre-colonial past, is notable for the swampy forests sheltering a community of rare hygrophilos species such as Calophyllum apetalum, Dipterocarpus indicus, Gymnacranthera canarica, , Hopea ponga, Mastixia arborea, Myristica magnifica, Pinanga dicksonii, Syzygium travancoricum etc. From Kathalekan was also recorded 35 species of amphibians -26 endemic to the Western Ghats, 11 of them in IUCN Red List- (Chandran et al 2009, in press).
The authors (the first author…!) have initiated Aa study is being carried out to assess the role of sacred grove in water conservation, compared to a secondary forest in the neighborhood, in the Uttara Kannada district of central Western Ghats in Karnataka. A comparative assessment has been designed to find out the relationship between vegetation, soil and hydrology in a well preserved sacred grove (dominated by Dipterocarpus indicus, a relic of the primary forest) and its downstream areas in the Bangarmakki village of Uttara Kannada. For comparison we chose another watershed, its catchment covered with secondary forests, in the nearby Sampegadde village. The preliminary results show that there is longer period of water retention in the soil, after the rainy season, in Bangarmakki, compared to Sampegadde. In the former, ground water level was higher in the downstream areas below the grove, where the major cultivation is arecanut, pepper, betel leaf, banana, coconut etc. Throughout the dry season the farmers are able to irrigate their gardens with water pumped from stream or wells. On the contrary, major land use downstream of the non-grove forest in Sampegadde is rain-fed paddy cultivation. Summer brings in water scarcity here, even for domestic use, and the people’s economic conditions are also lower than in Bangarmakki (Give figures.. if you think it is fine).
Carbon sequestration
Forests are major global sinks for carbon dioxide. Plants store atmospheric carbon in the form photosynthetic products, standing biomass, leaf litter and also contribute to soil organic carbon. It has been stated that unmanaged and old growth forests have better carbon sequestration capability than plantation and managed forests (Chen et al. 2005, Stoy et al. 2007). Sacred groves, often relics of ancient forests, can serve as good sinks for carbon because of their rich biodiversity, tree density and leaf litter deposition. A study from Himachal Pradesh showed higher percentage of soil carbon stock in comparison to the other forest ecosystems. Furthermore, well protected sacred forest, because of its higher biomass, sequesters significantly more carbon compared to other forest ecosystems (Singh et al. 1996). More studies are required in this direction to highlight the role of groves in carbon sequestration, so that the governments may take up steps to protect and restore the sacred groves, in the context of the planet threatened with climatic change.
Sacred grove and landscape heterogeneity
Sacred grove is not an isolated system. By its presence amidst a mosaic of landscape elements such as utility forests, agricultural fields, grazing lands, plantations, human settlements the groves enhance landscape heterogeneity and biodiversity. Studies in Kodagu region of Karnataka showed that the sacred groves in combination with the tree cover in coffee plantations play an important role in maintaining forest bird population. They also provide diverse microclimatic conditions which nurture several distinct macrofungal species in comparison to forest reserve and coffee plantations (Bhagwat et al 2005). Sacred grove fragments offer more intra patch habitat diversity to different life forms such as epiphytes, shrubs and lianas thus increasing total pool of regional species diversity (Page et al 2009).
Fragmentation of the groves often affects seed dispersal and regeneration of rare plants which ultimately causes decline of plant population. The availability of pollinators and seed dispersers is adversely affected causing decline in mutualistic relationship between trees and animals. Study from the Konkan region has shown that larger groves have better recruitment potential (both seedling density and seedling survival) than the smaller ones with regard to two tree species Antiaris toxicaria and Strychnos nux-vomica. However, it has also been indicated that apart from grove size, habitat quality, connectivity and population of seed dispersers may have a role in plant population dynamics (Punde, 2007).

On charting the course for future studies
Sacred groves belong to a decentralized and informal system of conservation with their roots deep in pre-history. They are often fragments of the primeval forests that covered any region before human impacts began. Considering the tremendous terrestrial ecosystem diversity of India, biodiversity documentation of the groves, especially vegetational aspects, will continue to have its importance, despite the grove studies hitherto carried out having mainly concentrated on biodiversity than on ecosystem functions and services. Apart from tangible benefits in terms of medicinal plants and various non-timber forest products, economic valuations of other services are yet undone. It is also necessary to understand the complex ecological interactions which sustain the rich biodiversity of groves as well as their ecosystem services. Greater understanding of ecological functions and ecosystem services of the groves will certainly enhance their importance at local and regional level conservation and management. Sacred grove tradition has faded away from most of the world and is rapidly on the decline in India. By and large, the governments and the public in general, especially the urban elites, consider this tradition as related to archaic religion. An ongoing process of cultural syncretism along with rising demand for biomass against a dwindling supply, have weakened this ancient practice of conservation. To update and harmonize their religious beliefs, to be in tune with the ‘elite’ India, the votaries of sacred grove tradition, bulk of them living in the villages and hamlets of the hills and mountains, where the groves persist to this day, are drifting away from the past. Moreover, most sacred grove studies, stronger on cultural and floristic aspects, the latter mainly on higher plants, dwell upon peripherally, if at all, on lower plants and invertebrates, and on a whole complex of associated ecological processes. Unless a strong scientific basis for conservation of the groves is established soon this practice is destined to diminish further, to the impoverishment of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The freshly emerging issues in sacred grove studies that need greater focus are:

1) Diversity of lower plants and lower fauna: Much work is required to be done on microbes, algae, fungi, lichens, bryophytes,

pteridophytes and invertebrates.
2) Ecosystem dynamics: Nutrient cycling and operation of food webs involving the grove and linked landscape elements are required to be understood in a wider context and more intensively. The pollination and dispersal, seed germination and survival and symbiotic relationships of rare plant species sheltered in the groves are to be understood to facilitate their more effective conservation.
3) Fragmentation effect: Present day groves are mostly isolated pockets of vegetation and they continue to shrink in area due to anthropogenic pressures. Large canopy gaps created by tree felling, in combination with shrinking area upset the microclimatic conditions of the groves and promote hardier secondary species and invasive species like Eupatorium and Lantana, at the cost of endemic and rare ones. With the taller trees turning vulnerable to wind falls the mean canopy height is destined to decline and more of interior species are exposed to adverse environmental conditions. A proper understanding of fragmentation effects and weed dynamics are necessary for better management of sacred groves.
5) Water conservation: The role of sacred grove in water conservation is well known from practical experience as well as from documentary evidence. However, the basic scientific investigations to validate the hydrological function are very necessary. Also necessary is how the present small pockets of vegetation, that the most groves today are, can be utilized for local level watershed management system.

6) Temperature regulation: The role of sacred grove in temperature control has not been investigated systematically. The cool shade and associated favorable moisture conditions are reasons for the association of rare species with sacred groves. Even the surrounding area benefits from the presence of groves.


7) Fire control: Fire can destroy extensive tracts of forests during dry summers. In landscapes interspersed with evergreen groves the latter checks the spread of fire, especially in the Western Ghats and the North-eastern states. How best the system of sacred groves can be rejuvenated and harmonized with landscape management plans need to be pursued more seriously to ensure forest protection.
8) Carbon sequestration: The sacred groves, due to their greater biomass accumulated per unit area as they are relatively less disturbed systems in humanized landscapes, can be viewed as accumulators of carbon. Region-wise studies on carbon sequestration potential of groves can create renewed interest in them. Participation of particularly rural folks in restoration of groves and increase in their biomass and ecosystem functioning, through carefully researched and region-specific action plans, under various national and international programs, can strengthen rural level economies while also giving a new lease of life to the declining relic forests sheltering rare biota.
9) Ecosystem and environmental service quantification: The ecosystem and environmental services provided by the sacred groves need to be quantified in relevant economic terms so that justifiable conservation measures could be taken. Effective frameworks are required to evaluate the tangible and non-tangibles benefits obtained from sacred groves. Tangible benefits (provisioning services) from sacred grove may be insignificant due to their present diminished size and restriction on resource usage, but other services (regulating, supporting and cultural) can be considered for this purpose.
10) Planning for interconnectedness of landscape elements: In highly human impacted landscapes with fractured forests sacred groves are also on the decline. Exercises aiming at landscape redesigning by providing connectivity between natural elements, with the sacred grove at the core can facilitate animal movements through micro-corridors. The groves, acting as seed banks, can promote re-colonization of climax species in the degraded forests around. Researchers have to make use of geographical information system (GIS) and remote sensing products for redesigning rural landscapes, with groves as core areas.


Table 1. Rare, Endangered and Threatened (RET) and Endemic Plant Distribution in sacred groves-Table may not be needed)

Groves

District, State

Region

Plant details

Reference

12 sacred groves

Maharashtra

Western Ghats

38 rare plants

Vartak, 1983

Khloo paiu ram

pyrthai, Urkhla, and Khloo langdoh




Jaintia hills

Meghalaya



Indo-Burma region

55 endemic

31 rare plants



Jamir et al, 2003

102 sacred groves

Maharashtra

Western Ghats

2 (near threatened), 4 (vulnerable), 1 (endangered)

Upadhye, 2004

25 sacred groves

Kodagu, Karnataka

Western Ghat

47 endemic, 32 threatened plants

Bhagwat et al, 2005

201 sacred groves

Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu

Southern Western Ghat

41 endemic

103 rare and endangered



Sukumaran et al, 2008

578 sacred groves

Kannur and Kasargod ) District, Kerala

Western Ghat

Rich presence of endemic plants

Jayaraman, 2004



Table 2. Studies on economically important plants from sacred grove – (Table may not be needed)

Grove localities

State

Total no. of utility plant species

Utility / Importance

Reference

Mangaon village, Pune district

Maharashtra




Medicinal, food

Vartak, 1981

Groves in Western Ghats

Maharashtra and Goa

26

Medicinal

Vartak et al, 1987

Kodagu

Karnataka

136

Medicinal

Boraiah et al, 2003




Tamil Nadu




Medicinal

Swamy et al, 2003

18 sacred groves in Purulia district

West Bengal

56

Medicinal

Bhakat, 2004

102 groves in Pune district

Maharashtra

84

22

24



Medicinal

Wild edible plants

Fodder plants


Upadhye et al, 2004

25 sacred groves in Kodagu

Karnataka

42

112


Medicinal plants

Other utility



Bhagwat et al, 2005

Konthoujam lairembi, Mhabali, Langol thongak lairembi and Heingang marjing

Manipur

120

Medicinal plants

Khumbongmayum et. Al, 2005

Swer and Mairang

Meghalaya

80

Medicinal

Laloo et al, 2005

Thal Ke Dhar

Uttarakhand

36

Medicinal, food, fodder, firewood, agricultural implements and others

Negi, 2005

Lalong and Raliang

(Jaintia hill)



Meghalaya

26

16

45



Wild fruit

Vegetables

Medicinal


Upadhaya et al, 2005

Garhwal

Uttarakhand




Medicinal

Anthwal et al, 2006

Tarkeshwar

Uttarakhand




Medicinal

Bisht, 2007

Virudhunagar district

Tamil Nadu

50

Medicinal

Rajendran et al, 2007

Guptamani,

Lohatikri and Nayagram

(Midnapur district)


West Bengal

30

Medicinal

Bhagat, 2008

201 sacred groves

Tamil Nadu

194

34

19



Medicinal

Timber


Non-timber products

Sukumaran et al, 2008

Dapoli tehsil

Maharashtra




Non-timber products

(medicinal, edible, fodder, aromatic, veterinary, dye yielding, tannin, fibre, gum, oil, resin, spice)



Ulman and Mokat, 2008

Table 3. Studies on ecological services provided by sacred groves –



Objective

Location of the Grove

Reference

Nutrient cycling through litter fall , role of surface fine roots in nutrient cycling

Cherrapunji, Meghalaya

Khiewtam and Ramakrishnan, 1993

Influence of gaps on vegetation structure, biomass, productivity and nutrient cycling

Nelliampathy, Western Ghat, Kerala

Chandrashekara and RamaKrishnan, 1994

Fine root dynamics




Vishalakshi 1994

Eco-cultural analysis of the ecosystem, (carbon stock estimation is a part of it)

Chakkinal watershed, Himachal Pradesh

Singh et al. 1996

Litterfall and nutrient dynamics

Upper Shillong, Meghalaya

Arunachalam et al. 1998

Soil influence on microbial populations, activity and biomass

Upper Shillong, Meghalaya

Arunachalam et al. 1999

Influence of gap size and soil on microbial biomass

Mawphlang, Shillong, Meghalaya

Arunachalam and Arunachalam 2000

Vegetation characterization and litter dynamcs

Five sacred groves in Kerala

Rajendraprasad et al. 2000

Landscape approach to biodiversity conservation

South-western Kodagu, Karnataka

Bhagwat et al 2005

Effect of fragmentation

Konkan region, Maharashtra

Punde, 2007

Fragmentation effect on plant species diversity

Kodagu region, Karnataka

Page et al 2009


REFERENCES (ADDITIONAL)

Borges, R.M. and Rane, U. 1992. A Study of Wildlife/People Conflicts. The Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary as a Case Study. Final Report. WWF India and Bombay natural History Society.

Brandis, D. and Grant, 1868. Joint report no.33, dated 11th May, on the kans in the Sorab taluka, Forest Department, Shimoga.

Chandran, M.D.S. 1998. Shifting cultivation, sacred groves and conflicts in colonial forest policy in the Western Ghats. In: Grove, R.H., Damodaran, V. and Sangwan, S. (eds) Nature and the Orient: The Environmental History of South and Southeas Asia, Oxford University Press, Delhi, pp. 674-707.

Chandran, M.D.S. 2005. Sacred groves and other ecological traditions of Western Karnataka. In: Krishna, N. (ed) Ecological traditions of Karnataka, C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, Chennai, pp. 24-45.

Chandran, M.D.S. and Gadgil, M. 1988. Sacred groves and sacred trees of Uttara Kannada. In: Saraswati, B. (ed) Lifestyle and Ecology Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and D.K. Printworld, New Delhi, pp. 85-138.

Chandran, M.D.S. and Gadgil, M. 1993. Kans- safety forests of Uttara Kannada. In: Brandl, M. (ed) proceeding of the IUFRO Forest History Group Meeting on Peasant Forestry, 2-5 September, 1991. Forstliche Versuchs-und Forschungsanstalt, Freiburg, pp. 49-57.

Chandran, M.D.S. and Hughes, J.D. 1997. The sacred groves of South India: Ecology, traditional communities and religious change. Social Compass 44(3), 413-427.

Chandran, MD.S., Rao, G.R., Gururaja, K.V. and Ramachandra, T.V. (in press). Ecology of the swampy relic forests of Kathalekan from Central Western Ghats, India.

Hay-Edie, T. and Hadley, M. 1998. –see PS Ramakrishnan et.al Ed.

Hughes, J.D. and Chandran, M.D.S. 1998 - see PS Ramakrishnan, et al Ed. ………..

Hughes, J.D. and Swan, J. 1986. “How much of the Earth is sacred space?” Environmental Review 10(4) (winter): 247-259.

Malhotra, K.C. 1998. Anthropological dimensions of sacred groves in India: an overview. see PS Ramakrishnan, et al Ed…….

Shanmukhappa, G. 1966. Working Plan for the Unorganized Forests of Sirsi and Siddapur. Karnataka forest Department, Bangalore.

Sinha, B. and Maikhuri, R.K. 1998. - see PS Ramakrishnan, et al Ed…………

Tiwari, B.K., Barik, S.K. and Tripathy, R.S. 1998. see PS Ramakrishnan, et al Ed.


Verilənlər bazası müəlliflik hüququ ilə müdafiə olunur ©azkurs.org 2016
rəhbərliyinə müraciət

    Ana səhifə