A landscape approach to biodiversity conservation of sacred groves in the Western Ghats of India

Bhagwat, Shonil A.; Kushalappa, Cheppudira G.; Williams, Paul H. and Brown, Nick D. (2005). A landscape approach to biodiversity conservation of sacred groves in the Western Ghats of India. Conservation Biology, 19(6) pp. 1853–1862.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00248.x

URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1523-...


Although sacred groves are important for conservation in India, the landscape that surrounds them has a vital influence on biodiversity within them. Research has focused on tree diversity inside these forest patches. In a coffee-growing region of the Western Ghats, however, landscape outside sacred groves is also tree covered because planters have retained native trees to provide shade for coffee plants. We examined the diversity of trees, birds, and macrofungi at 58 sites—10 forest-reserve sites, 25 sacred groves, and 23 coffee plantations— in Kodagu district. We measured landscape composition and configuration around each site with a geographic information system. To identify factors associated with diversity we constructed multivariate models by using a decision-tree technique. The conventional measures of landscape fragmentation such as patch size did not influence species richness. Distance of sacred groves from the forest reserve had a weak influence. The measures of landscape structure (e.g., tree cover in the surroundings) and stand structure (e.g., variability in canopy height) contributed to the variation in species richness explained by multivariate models. We suggest that biodiversity present within sacred groves has been influenced by native tree cover in the surrounding landscape. To conserve this biodiversity the integrity of the tree-covered landscape matrix will need to be conserved.

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