Poaching, exploitation of non-timber forest produce, grazing significantly curbed: study

Even as biodiversity decline is being reported from national parks worldwide, Mudumalai and Anamalai tiger reserves in Tamil Nadu have shown positive trends in sustaining its rich variety of flora and fauna.

This is the conclusion of a study taken up in 60 reserves in various parts of the world by a team of biodiversity researchers numbering more than 200.

Raman Sukumar of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc), who was part of the team of researchers, told The Hindu that the mammalian fauna of Mudumalai was intact and, in fact, increasing.

Citing the example of both tiger and the elephant population in this dry, deciduous forest, Prof. Sukumar said: “The tiger is always considered as being at the apex of the food chain and also representing the health of the ecosystem. Similarly, the research has also showed that forest cover in both the reserves was largely intact for the past several decades.”

“Protected areas are often thought of as the last bastions of plant and animal species in a world that is experiencing rapid erosion in biodiversity as a consequence of developmental pressure. This belief has never been explicitly tested worldwide to see how effectively protected areas are performing in the biodiversity rich tropical regions,” he said.

The analysis published last month in the international journal Nature by a global consortium of conservation scientists examined the issue through data on biodiversity trends, developments and other environmental pressures over the last three decades at 60 protected areas across Asia-Pacific, African and American tropics, he said.

The study found that 50 per cent of the tropical reserves were experiencing serious declines in biodiversity, across many plant and animal groups. The ecological health of these protected areas was influenced not only by the levels of disturbance within the reserve but also the ecological pressures in the surrounding habitats.

Three important aspects mainly contributed to the biodiversity decline at the global level — habitat disruption, hunting and exploitation of forest produces. These parameters are under control in both Mudumalai and Anamalai Tiger Reserves. “In both the reserves, the forests are contiguous. Similarly, poaching and exploitation of non-timber forest produce have been significantly curbed over the past decade. Livestock grazing has also declined sharply in Mudumalai and its surrounding Sigur plateau,” he points out.

Other side

However, there is a need for monitoring the impacts of invasive species such as Lantana camara, which has expanded its growth over a period of time. Similarly, the pollution level of the Moyar, the major river flowing through the Mudumalai reserve, from its catchment in The Nilgiris, needs to be curtailed, he emphasises.