'Rapid changes in ecology'
International meet on forest canopies deliberates conservation strategies
Some of the best brains in the world have come together in Bangalore to discuss forest canopies and explore the ways of combining disciplinary approaches to the pertinent questions on environment, social and conservation relevance.
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Bangalore (ATREE) in association with a host of organisations has organised the conference, which is a first to be held and hosted in Asia.
Forest canopies are home to 75 per cent of earth's biodiversity and their micro-climates are unique. Canopy science has made advances only in the last two decades, with the installation of crane technology that enables access to non-climbing experts also. However, India which has vast biodiversity, does not have such facility for access and thus still is dependent on single-rope access method.
Decrease in forest cover
In his presentation on ‘Forest Canopies in 21st century - Challenges and Prospects for Progress’, Prof Kamaljit S Bawa, President, ATREE, said that though it is subtle, rapid changes have been taking place in forest ecology in India. The need of the hour is to link the study of climate change and its effect on biodiversity. As per the Forest Survey of India report, dense forest cover has decreased by 2.04 pc from 3,95,169 sq kms in 2001 to 3,87,126 sq kms in 2005. But open forest has increased by 12.04% during the same period.
Bawa said that India and China should collectively respond and collaborate in taking measures to check rapid climate change in the Himalayas.
The survey conducted by him and his students for four months in 2008 in the eastern Himalayas showed that the natives were aware of climate change and its effect on the mountain range. The survey included 300 households. About 70 pc of the respondents said that they have noticed early on set of summer as well as erratic monsoon.
"People believe that snow is melting rapidly. And, nearly 60 pc of the households said that species were flowering earlier. In addition, birds were moving to higher altitude and were also seeing new pests. The people are knowledgeable about the climate changes taking place", he said to stress his point as to why India and China have to pay special attention to conserve the Himalayas.
Thomas Lovejoy, renowned conservation biologist who coined the term biodiversity, in his key note address, explained how the forests in Western US forests were witnessing warmer summers and early snow melts. There was a need to revise conservation strategies, limit greenhouse gas concentration, revise the energy base for society, and reduce/eliminate deforestation.
In addition, Lovejoy said that efforts should be made to minimise climate change impacts by reducing other stresses.
The next five days of the conference will see talks by environment experts Nalini Nadkarni, Vojtech Novotny, Meg Lowman among others. For
details log on to www.canopy 2009.org
Data on Western Ghats
Ecologist and biologist Prof K N Ganeshaiah and his team uploaded a host of data including qualitative assessments of plants in the Western Ghats on to Jeevasampada module of www.ibin.co.in The page has primary data on plant resources on the Western Ghats. This is one of the largest ground-based exercise done in any part of the global hotspots to collect primary data on the plant resources, Ganeshaiah said.