Chat Archives
Chat on "Conserving wildlife in fragmented landscapes" dated January 15, 2012
  • Vinay Nadig: Hi Shankar , vinay here from NCF`s EcoQuest in Mysore
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Good Evening, Folks! Am I glad to be back, Susan!
  • T R Shankar Raman: Good evening, all! And hello Vinay... good to see you here!
  • PRAVEEN V: Good Evening sir. Great to make it IWF chat finally
  • T R Shankar Raman: Yes, it is good to meet you all on this chat to talk about conserving wildlife in our increasingly fragmented landscapes.
  • rohit: hi everyone
  • T R Shankar Raman: Hi Rohit
  • rohit: after a long wait
  • rohit: finally iwc chat came
  • Susan Sharma: Glad to see the good response
  • rohit: so how can we start?
  • rohit: dear shankar raman, so you are maderator today, am i right?
  • PRAVEEN V: I would like to know about your activities and how a common man like me can contribute
  • PRAVEEN V: I stay quite close - Palakkad!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: Yes, I am. Perhaps begin with a brief introduction to the theme?
  • T R Shankar Raman: I work with colleagues and students on effects of rainforest fragmentation in the southern Western Ghats.
  • T R Shankar Raman: We are based out of a research station in the Anamalai hills.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: R fragmented landscapes synonymous with habitat fragmentation??
  • T R Shankar Raman: Well, fragmented landscapes are a consequence of the process of habitat fragmentation.
  • rohit: @ sandeep ya i hope so..
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: don't hope PLEASE!! tell me definitely, Shankar!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: When a large tract of forest, for instance, is broken into smaller patches by agriculture and development, for example.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: so the two are the same!!
  • PRAVEEN V: Now that the existing fragmentation is a reality, whats the best alternative to ensure habit fragmentation does not get more serious?
  • T R Shankar Raman: The process of loss of forest and isolation of the remaining patches is habitat fragmentation. While...
  • rohit: which areas in india are most suffererd from fragmentation shankar?
  • T R Shankar Raman: the resulting landscape of forest patches, with the surrounding 'matrix' of agriculture, dams, development etc. is the fragmented landscape.
  • rohit: okies...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: so fragmentation of landscape is a direct consequence of habitat fragmentation!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ Praveen: To ensure habitat fragmentation does not get more serious, we can identify areas that are relatively 'unfragmented' and work to first conserve them.
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ Sandeep: yes
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: easier said than done!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: But we can also, try to prevent further fragmentation by minimising or reversing the effects of fragmentation.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: identifying such areas needs extensive coordination
  • rohit: @ shankar by maintainig corridors ??
  • T R Shankar Raman: This could be done through restoration of links ('corridors'), making surrounding matrix more hospitable for wildlife, and so on.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: between wildlife conservationists and forest officers
  • PRAVEEN V: conserving unfragmented area is one side, but how to bypass existing fragmentation so that the birds and animals dont get disturbed further
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: which is asking for the impossible at least in India
  • PRAVEEN V: ok, u've answered that before I cud type the question :)
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: since they don't trust each other much
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: this is from hard experience
  • T R Shankar Raman: @rohit: yes, corridors are important, but not the only approach. We cannot have corridors (esp. as forest corridors) everywhere.
  • Vinay Nadig: I would like to bring in the recent elephants running in the streets of mysore as an example
  • T R Shankar Raman: One should look at surrounding habitats, including human-use or modified habitats as well.
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ Sandeep: I agree that it requires extensive coordination between wildlife scientists, forest officers, local people.
  • PRAVEEN V: can u explain a bit about your NCF activities and how effective have your activities been in avoiding the above?
  • T R Shankar Raman: It is not easy, but one should try. Often, reducing the effects of fragmentation will benefit, not only wildlife, but could benefit people as well.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: shankar I beg to differ
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: from your last statement
  • rohit: so how to work a way out for conserving existing wildlife in a already fragmented landscape?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: the effects of fragmentation could help in saving certain types of wildlife
  • T R Shankar Raman: For instance, reducing the likelihood or incidence of human-wildlife conflict could emerge from reversing the effects of fragmentation.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: but not all wildlife can benefit from it
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ Praveen: NCF is trying to protect existing rainforest fragments outside the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, in partnership with private plantations.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: reversing the effects of habitat fragmentation takes up valuable time
  • T R Shankar Raman: We also carry out restoration of degraded forest fragments to enhance their quality and use for wildlife.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and that is one commodity which we have in extreme short supply
  • T R Shankar Raman: Simultaneously, we work to minimise human-wildlife conflict involving species such as elephants and leopards that move through such landscapes.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: wildlife does not consist only of mammals
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ Sandeep: could you explain what you mean by not all wildlife will benefit from it.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: what about the birds??
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Shankar, yes i can explain
  • T R Shankar Raman: Please do... my PhD research included a study on the effects of forest fragmentation and plantations on birds.
  • T R Shankar Raman: I'm curious to know why you think reversing the effects of fragmentation will not benefit all birds (you are partly right!).
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Those forest species which are conservation reliant can experience problems
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: in habitat fragmentation
  • rohit: birds can escape from deleterious effects of fragmentation to some extent..
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: but certain other species which do not
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ rohit: First steps include identifying the species that are affected and possible ecological causes. Then species- and site-specific steps...
  • rohit: @sandeep ya i was banging my head for this name 'reliant'..
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: rely on conservation
  • T R Shankar Raman: Yes, birds, may be less impacted because they can fly... but not all birds. Many rainforest birds are highly sedentary and habitat-specific.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: can survive on their own by moving from one habitat to another
  • rohit: hmmm..
  • T R Shankar Raman: For instance, understorey flycatchers and babblers. In the Neotropics research has shown how small birds will not fly across gaps created by
  • T R Shankar Raman: agriculture, roads, etc.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: exactly
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: if forest fragmentation results in barren land, then neither one nor the other can survive
  • T R Shankar Raman: In my research, for instance, rainforest birds like trogons and endemic understorey flycatchers, for e.g., seemed more affected by fragmentation.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and in india the problem is heading for that consequence
  • T R Shankar Raman: Widespread, common birds, especially birds of more open forests, such as some bulbuls, tailorbird, etc. actually benefit from fragmentation.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: yes, but endemic species reach extinction faster
  • T R Shankar Raman: Thus reversing the effects of fragmentation may affect some birds, but these are usually more common species of not so high conservation value..
  • rohit: and genetic variability and gene pool thing
  • T R Shankar Raman: as the endemic and specialised birds are.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: that is only the case with mammals, rohit
  • rohit: ohh..
  • T R Shankar Raman: @rohit: I'm not sure if I clarified your point...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: with bird species and insect species what gene pool are you going to create
  • PRAVEEN V: when u say they dont benefit by reversing fragmentation does not mean they are adversely affected, right?
  • T R Shankar Raman: Yes, there can certainly be genetic consequences as well. In general affecting the more localised and sedentary species more perhaps.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: praveen, they are driven to extinction
  • rohit: clarified my point very well actually...
  • T R Shankar Raman: Well, in highly fragmented landscapes, I think reversing the effects of fragmentation may affect some species, but is unlikely to drive them extinct.
  • PRAVEEN V: @sandeep, am not clear on this
  • rohit: @sandeep i think every species and genus has a unique gene pool.
  • PRAVEEN V: ok not extinct, but how is it adversely affected?
  • T R Shankar Raman: This is because there will always be spaces in the surrounding landscape for the disturbance-adapted species: or 'matrix-tolerant' species.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: yes, rohit, but how are you going to conserve a gene pool for the avifauna??
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: u certainly cannot catch all the birds and insects and.....
  • T R Shankar Raman: What we are trying to do is really to provide conservation support for the endemic species... a better prospect for those negatively affected by fragmentation
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: transport them from one place to another, can you rohit??
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Shankar, please tell me more
  • T R Shankar Raman: Genetic effects may not be restricted to mammals. Studies have shown effects on birds, butterflies... many taxa. But one does not want to...
  • rohit: i am actually talking about genetic variabil;ity which is required for darwin says
  • T R Shankar Raman: 'catch all the birds and insects' to conserve the gene pool. We should try to conserve biological diversity (genes-communities) in situ...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: yes biological diversity conservation is right!
  • rohit: that can only be maintained if organisms of different genetic combinations can mate...which is reduced to some extent in an island fragmented area
  • T R Shankar Raman: I am not an expert on genetics of fragmented populations, so cannot really comment in detail. I do feel that many ecological aspects require...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: but the way forward is beset with extreme difficulties!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: more immediate attention on the ground.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: like what??
  • T R Shankar Raman: Yes... but we should not avoid trying because it is difficult. When we began our work on rainforest restoration it was expected to be very difficult...
  • T R Shankar Raman: and some aspects are difficult... but we have been able to raise more than 130+ native tree species for restoration of degraded fragments...
  • rohit: thats good..
  • T R Shankar Raman: @Sandeep: immediate ecological effects: the effects of invasive alien species (such as Lantana camara) spreading into fragments
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Shankar, what effect did your restoration work have on the raptors, since they stand on top of the food chain??
  • T R Shankar Raman: 'edge effects' such as desiccation, change in plant community, loss of canopy continuity for arboreal animals such as primates...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and raptors??
  • T R Shankar Raman: ...these are examples of more immediate ecological effects that may need attention in fragmented landscape
  • T R Shankar Raman: @Sandeep... cannot really say the effects on raptors, since they have such large home ranges... and our fragments/restoration sites are small...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: ecological effects are both long term and short term? how does this affect fragmentation?
  • rohit: edge effects...can anybody help me in understanding it in simpler words
  • T R Shankar Raman: it is not suitable to reach scientific conclusions on the effects on raptors.
  • T R Shankar Raman: Lets talk about edge effects...
  • T R Shankar Raman: Imagine a dense forest that is now isolated, adjoining a very different habitat on one side: say a paddy field or a monoculture tea plantation
  • T R Shankar Raman: Also, imagine there is a road, widened into a highway, passing through the fragment... both these result in edge effects... but different types
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: if the core area : edge area ratio is reduced, that is my experience, then as a result of...
  • T R Shankar Raman: Along the agriculture field we have a hard edge... where closed canopy gives way to open, diversity to monoculture...
  • T R Shankar Raman: and in the open it is more sunny (hot), more exposed to light etc. This affects the plants and animals at the forest edge.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: habitat fragmentation makes it difficult to conserve wildlife!
  • T R Shankar Raman: And not just at the edge, but this edge effect penetrates into the forest for some distance...
  • rohit: ok..
  • PRAVEEN V: and what is the effect of the road?
  • T R Shankar Raman: So one can have weedy plants spreading from the edge to the interior, the exposure leads to death of tall trees at the edge... this is edge effect...
  • PRAVEEN V: ok
  • rohit: so how does the plant and animals on edge got effected or adapt to this?
  • T R Shankar Raman: The road may have similar effects... for instance, weeds can spread along the disturbed roadsides and penetrate forests, but another effect...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: also isolation of one fragmented area from other contiguous adjoining areas results in edge effects!
  • T R Shankar Raman: that there are higher wind speeds and tree falls along roads.
  • PRAVEEN V: ok
  • T R Shankar Raman: Canopy continuity is affected. Tree-dwelling animals trying to cross on the ground may be killed by speeding traffic... some birds may avoid road edges...
  • rohit: hmm..the cloud is clearing now...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Shankar, come straight to the point! what is the solution in the PRACTICAL SENSE??
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ rohit: not all species can adapt to it... depends on species and kind of effect... the "edge penetration distance" varies by species and kind of factor
  • rohit: so this restoration you are talking about work at which particular area of forest and where first?
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ Sandeep: as we have been talking about: (1) ensuring that remnant habitats are protected, (2) corridors for animal movement are safeguarded...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: PRACTICALLY HOW!!??
  • T R Shankar Raman: (3) degraded areas can be ecologically restored... well chosen locations, (4) understand that the surrounding habitats can also have value for wildlife
  • T R Shankar Raman: See examples from our website. Again, like I have already mentioned, we are working with private plantations to protect over 20 rainforest fragments.
  • T R Shankar Raman: We have a nursery where we raise native plant species and plant them in carefully chosen degraded sites. In the surrounding landscape...
  • rohit: obviously not..
  • T R Shankar Raman: coffee planters are encouraged to use native tree species as shade ... this helps wildlife as well... these are the sort of practical steps required
  • T R Shankar Raman: But it will vary from place to place. And yes, it is not a one man job. It requires several people with different skills working together...
  • PRAVEEN V: Sir, coming to the action part - as an ordinary working man how can a person like me contribute to your cause?
  • T R Shankar Raman: I appreciate your interest. But more than contributing to my/our cause... it may be a good idea for you to take up this cause in areas of your interest
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: u need to coordinate with forest officers, local populace, and conservationists and politicians! a tall order!
  • rohit: @praveen i think as an urbanite we can do a little by..RECYCLE REUSE AND REDUCE !!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: Almost every place where we live, cities, towns, villages, countryside, forests, there are opportunities for conserving wildlife... even in fragmented landscape
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: my extremely long experience of the last 18 years has taught me the hard lesson!!!!!!!11111
  • T R Shankar Raman: Please dont be negative or lose heart... there is much you can do if you take interest and start... start small but start!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: it seems to me that more than contribution, it is commitment which is sorely missing at least in Eastern India....
  • T R Shankar Raman: First, work to understand the landscape, read and interact with local people, forest officers, wildlife scientists... get a better understanding...
  • rohit: @ shankar...yes..positivity matters...even 1% of today,s work will mean a lot after a decade..
  • rohit: i mean conservation
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and north eastern India where I live and work on Indian raptors and Indian rhinos!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: you will find then that there are many ways to engage. Some of the best restoration work in the world has come from citizens/local community
  • T R Shankar Raman: NE India has a lot of challenges... and is in the forefront of habitat fragmentation today. Lots of proposed dams, roads, mining, habitat alteration...
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Shankar, please try to understand that the political situation in Eastern and North East is extremely fragile!
  • T R Shankar Raman: such work is quite needed there and people like you can make a difference.
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: and working there has a lot of political problems, period!!!!!!!!!!1
  • T R Shankar Raman: I worked on effects of slash and burn agriculture in Mizoram in 1994-5, and have colleagues working in Assam and Arunachal... I know what you mean.
  • T R Shankar Raman: @ Sandeep: dont focus so much on problems. Everyone knows there are so many problems. Begin to focus on solutions, on changing mind sets...
  • PRAVEEN V: Another question, since you have worked on elephant corridor
  • PRAVEEN V: Here in Palakkad, we have elephants entering fields during the monsoon months too
  • PRAVEEN V: you have any idea about the reason?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: Shankar, please write to me at and I need to interact with U MORE!!!!
  • T R Shankar Raman: At a fundamental level conservation can seem negative focussed on 'extinction' etc. but the other side of the coin 'restoration' looks ahead, too...
  • rohit: i am an MBBS graduate and have yet to start my work for conservation...experienced people like you can only inspire us..
  • T R Shankar Raman: I would not know the reason in your specific locality. It could be because of disruption of movement route, loss of habitat, need for water...
  • T R Shankar Raman: or perhaps some crops are attractive as food... we need to study the exact time and location of conflict incidents across years to better understand causes
  • T R Shankar Raman: There are a number of MBBS/Doctors among my friends colleagues who are active in conservation... you can be, too!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: wildlife conservation in fragmented habitats and landscapes is definitely the future for all of us now!
  • PRAVEEN V: ok, may be food - Bananas :)
  • T R Shankar Raman: Its almost an hour now... anyone with any final quick question(s)?
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: shankar will you please correspond with me??
  • PRAVEEN V: thanks a lot for the inspiring session
  • bhavana sharma: thank u all ....m bhavana doing mca the discussion was very useful
  • Vinay Nadig: sorry to interrupt ..EDUCATION plays a big role ? and if yes would like to bring in th concept of ECOQUEST to reach out to people
  • PRAVEEN V: @Vinay - a very big role, yes
  • rohit: @shankar what could be the best way to degree in conservation biology or instead by any other way..??
  • T R Shankar Raman: Yes. Education plays a big role... especially for targetted awareness of issues... and sharing of ecological research findings. So that we
  • rohit: for myself
  • PRAVEEN V: what's Ecoquest?
  • T R Shankar Raman: can find better solutions. We have an EcoQuest/Nature Discovery Centre here in the Anamalais for several years now that plays this role.
  • T R Shankar Raman: And it is important that the education is not just targeted at children but at all ages and kinds of people in the community...
  • Susan Sharma: TRS, thanks for inspiring a great discussion. Would love to have you over again
  • T R Shankar Raman: Thanks all of you for the opportunity to share and discuss these ideas... and good night to all!
  • Sandeep Ghosh.: good nite!
  • PRAVEEN V: Good night all!
  • rohit: tanks to all and specially susan for the platform
  • Susan Sharma: Thank you all
  • T R Shankar Raman: Thanks Susan and bye...
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