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Seshadri K.S.,National University of Singapore | Singal R.,Independent Researcher | Priti H.,Manipal University India | Priti H.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2016

In recent times, several new species of amphibians have been described from India. Many of these discoveries are from biodiversity hotspots or from within protected areas. We undertook amphibian surveys in human dominated landscapes outside of protected areas in south western region of India between years 2013-2015. We encountered a new species of Microhyla which is described here as Microhyla laterite sp. nov. It was delimited using molecular, morphometric and bioacoustics comparisons. Microhyla laterite sp. nov. appears to be restricted to areas of the West coast of India dominated by laterite rock formations. The laterite rock formations date as far back as the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary and are considered to be wastelands in-spite of their intriguing geological history. We identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of the genus Microhyla from the Indian subcontinent and suggest ways to bridge them. ©2016 Seshadri et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Shrestha U.B.,University of Southern Queensland | Bawa K.S.,University of Massachusetts Boston | Bawa K.S.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE
Regional Environmental Change | Year: 2014

Chinese caterpillar fungus is in spotlight because of its high market value, unusual life history, and numerous medicinal uses. One of the most expensive biological resources of the world, Chinese caterpillar fungus is harvested by the most impoverished communities of the Himalaya to sustain their livelihoods. Skyrocketing international trade and intensive local collections from the wild have raised concerns about the status of natural populations and their conservation. We assessed harvesters’ perceptions of the population status of Chinese caterpillar fungus, causes of decline, and sustainable harvesting in Dolpa, Nepal. Most harvesters (95.1 %) believe that the abundance of Chinese caterpillar fungus has decreased during the last 5 years. This belief is supported by trends in average annual per capita harvest. Climate change, over harvesting, premature harvesting, and reduced number of the larvae are the cited causes of decline in harvests. To validate the harvester’s perceptions of climate change, we analyzed temperature and precipitation data. Pearson’s Chi-square tests between the perceptions of abundance of Chinese caterpillar fungus and demographic variables such as harvesting experience, age, place of origin and education are not significant, indicating that the perceptions are independent of demographic characteristics of harvesters. A large proportion of harvesters (79.31 %) believe that the population might recover if collection is periodically banned for 1–2 years. Other protection measures suggested by the harvesters include changes in the harvesting time, regulation of prices, protection of habitat including solid waste management and control of cattle grazing, and development of local capacity for harvesting on a sustainable basis. A systematic management plan that incorporates trans-national efforts to sustain populations that occur across several countries facing similar human and physical pressures and ecological impacts is needed. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

Shrestha U.B.,University of Massachusetts Boston | Bawa K.S.,University of Massachusetts Boston | Bawa K.S.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE
Biological Conservation | Year: 2013

Unsustainable trade in wildlife is regarded as a major driver of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. Unregulated wildlife trade propels over-exploitation of species, resulting in population declines, and often in combination with other factors may ultimately extirpate species from their natural habitats. Concern about the impacts of trade on biodiversity has largely focused on flagship animal species. Here, we report on the impact of trade on natural populations of the world's most expensive biological resource, a unique caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis). Based on interviews with 203 harvesters and 28 traders, and focus group discussions in Dolpa, Nepal, we quantify the amount of harvest and trade. After legalization of trade in Nepal in 2001, trade volume increased persistently, reaching a peak of 2442.4. kg in 2009 and subsequently declining to 1170.8. kg in 2011. The local market price has increased by up to 2300% over the last 10. years. However, mean annual harvest declined from 260.66. ±. 212.21. pieces per person in 2006 to 125.82. ±. 96.84. pieces per person in 2010. Our analysis of harvesters' perceptions of resource abundance and sustainability shows that virtually all harvesters (95.1%) believe the availability of the caterpillar fungus in the pastures to be declining, and 67% consider current harvesting practices to be unsustainable. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Shrestha U.B.,University of Southern Queensland | Bawa K.S.,University of Massachusetts Boston | Bawa K.S.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE
Biological Conservation | Year: 2014

Harvesting of Chinese caterpillar fungus, one of the most expensive biological commodities in the world, has become an important livelihood strategy for mountain communities of Nepal. However, very little is known about the role of Chinese caterpillar fungus in household economy. We estimated the economic contribution of Chinese caterpillar fungus to the household income, quantified the extent of "Chinese caterpillar fungus dependence" among households with different economic and social characteristics, and assessed the role of cash income from the Chinese caterpillar fungus harvest in meeting various household needs including education, debt payments, and food security. Results show that Chinese caterpillar fungus income is the second largest contributor to the total household income after farm income with 21.1% contribution to the total household income and 53.3% to the total cash income. The contribution of Chinese caterpillar fungus income to total household income decreases as the household income increases making its contribution highest for the poorest households. There is significant correlation between Chinese caterpillar fungus dependency and percentage of family members involved in harvesting, number of food-sufficient months, and total income without Chinese caterpillar fungus income. Income from Chinese caterpillar fungus is helping the poorest to educate children, purchase food, and pay debts. However, reported decline of Chinese caterpillar fungus from its natural habitat might threaten local livelihoods that depend on the Chinese caterpillar fungus in future. Therefore, sustainable management of Chinese caterpillar fungus through partnership among local institutions and the state is critical in conserving the species and the sustained flow of benefits to local communities. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Ramachandran V.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE | Ramachandran V.,Manipal University India | Ganesh T.,Manipal University India
Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society | Year: 2012

The majority of faunal studies focus on diversity and endemism on elevational gradients. It is claimed that a complex interplay of factors explains the variability of observed gradient patterns, including non-biological ones such as differences in sampling regime. Little is known of factors influencing bird community composition at local levels in tropical rainforest. Along successional gradients, habitat structure and tree species composition influence bird community structure, wherein structurally and floristically similar sites tend to have similar bird communities. In addition, canopy dwelling species have been often ignored or under sampled due to logistical problems. The present study explores variations in local bird community structure along a disturbance gradient in a tropical rainforest of the Western Ghats of India using traditional ground-based sampling in conjunction with canopy sampling. © Bombay Natural History Society 2012.

Sarma R.R.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE | Sarma R.R.,Manipal University India | Munsi M.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE | Munsi M.,Manipal University India | Ananthram A.N.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment ATREE
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

The Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica) is considered to be one the world's 100 worst invasive alien species. The snail has an impact on native biodiversity, and on agricultural and horticultural crops. In India, it is known to feed on more than fifty species of native plants and agricultural crops and also outcompetes the native snails. It was introduced into India in 1847 and since then it has spread all across the country. In this paper, we use ecological niche modeling (ENM) to assess the distribution pattern of Giant African Snail (GAS) under different climate change scenarios. The niche modeling results indicate that under the current climate scenario, Eastern India, peninsular India and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are at high risk of invasion. The three different future climate scenarios show that there is no significant change in the geographical distribution of invasion prone areas. However, certain currently invaded areas will be more prone to invasion in the future. These regions include parts of Bihar, Southern Karnataka, parts of Gujarat and Assam. The Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands are highly vulnerable to invasion under changed climate. The Central Indian region is at low risk due to high temperature and low rainfall. An understanding of the invasion pattern can help in better management of this invasive species and also in formulating policies for its control. © 2015 Rekha Sarma et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Ariza-Montobbio P.,Autonomous University of Barcelona | Lele S.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment Atree
Ecological Economics | Year: 2010

Researchers, policy makers and civil society organizations have been discussing the potential of biofuels as partial substitutes for fossil fuels and thereby as a simultaneous solution for climate change and rural poverty. Research has highlighted the ambiguity of these claims across various dimensions and scales, focusing on ethanol-producing or oilseed crops in agricultural lands or Jatropha-type crops on common lands. We studied the agronomic and economic viability and livelihood impacts of Jatropha curcas plantations on private farms in Tamil Nadu, India. We found that Jatropha yields are much lower than expected and its cultivation is currently unviable, and even its potential viability is strongly determined by water access. On the whole, the crop impoverishes farmers, particularly the poorer and socially backward farmers. Jatropha cultivation therefore not only fails to alleviate poverty, but its aggressive and misguided promotion will generate conflict between the state and the farmers, between different socio-economic classes and even within households. The water demands of the crop can potentially exacerbate the conflicts and competition over water access in Tamil Nadu villages. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

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