Not seeing the grass for the trees: Timber plantations and agriculture shrink tropical montane grassland by two-thirds over four decades in the Palani Hills, a Western Ghats Sky Island

M. Arasumani,Danish Khan,Arundhati Das,Ian Lockwood,Robert Stewart,Ravi A. Kiran,M. Muthukumar,Milind Bunyan ,V. V. Robin

PLoS ONE | January 10, 2018

Tropical montane habitats, grasslands, in particular, merit urgent conservation attention owing to the disproportionate levels of endemic biodiversity they harbour, the ecosystem services they provide, and the fact that they are among the most threatened habitats globally. The Shola Sky Islands in the Western Ghats host a matrix of native forest-grassland matrix that has been planted over the last century, with exotic timber plantations. The popular discourse on the landscape change is that mainly forests have been lost to the timber plantations and recent court directives are to restore Shola forest trees. In this study, we examine spatiotemporal patterns of landscape change over the last 40 years in the Palani Hills, a significant part of the montane habitat in the Western Ghats.