Invasion compounds an ecosystem-wide loss to afforestation in the tropical grasslands of the Shola Sky Islands

M. Arasumani, Danish Khan, C.K. Vishnudas, M. Muthukumar, Milind Bunyan, V.V. Robin

Biological Conservation | February 15, 2019

Tropical montane habitats, including the Shola Sky Islands in the Western Ghats, host several threatened taxa of which, the global distributions are restricted to these mountain-tops. The rapidly increasing human footprint and the spread of invasive alien plants have already resulted in the local extinction of several taxa. Here we examine the entire Shola Sky Islands ecosystem to estimate the extent of habitat loss and to create a baseline of land use in this rapidly changing landscape. We used LANDSAT imageries from 1973, 1995 and 2017, with 840 ground truth points across the ecosystem. We find substantial landscape modification in the large high elevation plateaus (7–60%) over the last four decades while changes are muted in the other parts.