Scoping for corridors to connect protected areas in the Western Ghats
M Soubadra Devy
The Western Ghats, one of the most threatened of the 36 global ‘biodiversity hotspots’, covers 160,000 sq. km, harbouring diverse ecosystems with extraordinarily high endemicity of plants and animals. The Western Ghats is under intense pressure from hydropower projects, mining, roads, railways and population growth.
The existing PA network is embedded in a matrix of plantations, agricultural land and urban areas, affecting the movements of pollinators/dispersers and large charismatic species such as elephants and tigers. Our earlier work has identified landscapes or corridors that can connect PAs. In the proposed current phase, we will undertake biodiversity assessments in two corridor landscapes to
(i) identify threatened and endangered species/populations;
(ii) document threats to biodiversity; and
(iii) map land tenure/ownership within corridors to support the creation of additional reserves with multiple stakeholders, including local communities.
In the second phase for which funding is not being sought in this exploratory proposal), we will
(i) engage local communities in livelihood-based initiatives to build broad public support for multifunctional landscapes to benefit nature and society,
(ii) develop a comprehensive conservation plan/strategy for identified unprotected biodiversity areas including corridors and PA buffer zones, and
(iii) work with Forest Departments to institute heightened formal protection status in this area.