Resilience, recovery and restoration of tropical forests

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Panoramic view of a Western Ghats landscape in Kodagu, Karnataka, India (Photo: Shonil Bhagwat)

Abstract of my talk at the Open University’s Department of Environment, Earth and Ecosystems on 4th February 2014:

Resilience, Recovery and Restoration: Dynamics of a cultural landscape over 7500 years of environmental change

How do long term environmental changes shape forest landscapes and what role do humans play in these landscape-wide changes? This talk presents new findings of tropical forest dynamics in a cultural landscape in the Western Ghats of India. This region has a long history of human presence and is well-known for its nature conservation traditions such as sacred forest groves. The region is believed to have been under agricultural for several millennia and the tradition of sacred grove conservation is also believed to be equally ancient. However, there is no precise data on the onset of settled agriculture and the origins of sacred forest groves. Based on palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, archaeological evidence and historical literature, this talk explores environmental and anthropogenic drivers of vegetation change. It portrays a complex picture of losses and gains of forest cover. It identifies ecological and cultural drivers of resilience, recovery and restoration of this tropical forest landscape. The talk concludes by offering new insights into tropical forest management and nature conservation in one of world’s biodiversity hotspots.

Handout of PowerPoint slides: Bhagwat_EEE-Seminar_2014-02-04

The talk is based on two research papers:

Bhagwat S.A. et al. (2012) Resilience of an ancient tropical forest landscape to 7500 years of environmental change Biological Conservation 153: 108–117.  Open Research Online link

Bhagwat S.A. et al. (2014) Cultural drivers of reforestation in tropical forest groves of the Western Ghats of India. Forest Ecology and Management, Available online 23 December 2013 ‐ http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2013.11.017. Open Research Online link

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