Western Ghats sentinel landscape

Agroforestry systems (coffee, tea, rubber, pepper, areca nut, cardamom) shape much of the Western Ghats in India. Commercial agriculture in this area has existed for centuries. Now, these commercial crops reach the margins of protected areas. In many cases, the only forests left are small sections that are either community-managed (i.e. sacred forests) or privately owned.

This sentinel landscape is located in the central section of a mountain range, from Goa to the Palakkad Gap, spanning across Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. All the ecosystem services in the intended areas express different spatial scales in different landscape contexts. Understanding the dynamics between tree cover, biodiversity and the variety of ecosystem services is a predominant issue in such landscapes.

One major undertaking is including ‘dis-services’ in the equation. We cannot fully understand the relationship between people and forests without incorporating what the costs of living in close proximity to a forest entails: crop loss to wildlife, transmission of diseases, insecurity, etc. Resolving economic and environmental tradeoffs is similarly important, and a scientifically and politically informed framework to understand the tradeoffs between services and between stakeholders, and the imbalance between actors, can help define the outcomes of proposed policies of natural resources management.

Forests, agroforestry and rice cultivation equally represented in the landscape
Complex, shade-grown coffee agroforestry systems
Small holdings (<2 ha) represent 58% of the holdings and 22% of the coffee area
Complex tenure system with over 39 land rights
Human density 135 hab/km², tribal population 8.41%
Female literacy rate: 72.26%
Area of interest: Biligirirangana Temple (BRT) Hills
Land sparing scenario: 52% of the area under protected area (including Tiger Reserves)
Soliga tribal settlements claiming rights over forest land and forest resources
Density 200 hab/km², tribal population 11%
Female literacy rate: 42.48%
Highest human density: 380 hab/km²
Tribal population: 17.43%
Female literacy rate: 80.72%
Landscape mosaic with cash crop-based agroforestry systems: pepper, cardamom, coffee and tea
High proportion of teak plantations in state-controlled forests
Population density: 300 hab/km²
Tribal communities, including Toda, Badaga, Kota, Irular and Kurumbas comprise 3.72% of the population
Female literacy rate: 71.64%
Range of mountains with at least 24 peaks above 2,000 meters
Tea-dominated landscape, and diverse horticultural systems
Village selection
Initial listing of villages with census data from 2011
Visit to Panchayat offices, knowledge of partners
Location of villages within or near the site
Criteria for selection: caste and tribe composition
Land Degradation and Surveillance Framework (LDSF) progress
Site name: Madikeri (Kodagu district)
Number of clusters: 16 (16 completed)
Sample plots: 160 (160 completed)
Total samples collected: Top-160; Sub-160; CM-160

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