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News Article | March 12, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

Scientists found a new species of the tiny narrow-mouthed frog in Manipal and Mangaluru regions of India. The frog, which measures about 1.6 centimeters (0.63 inch) and about the size of the thumb, is called Microhyla laterite because of its habitat. Researchers from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) Bengaluru, National University of Singapore (NUS) and Gubbi Labs, found the new species in Indian laterite rock formations. The discovery proved that the region, which is also called wastelands, has ecological importance. The particular region is an area in India which is heavily used for dumping garbage and mining of laterite. Trees and vegetation are not seen in rock formations that is why they are dubbed as rocky regions in the country. Mr. Ramit Singal, co-author of the study, found the tiny frog and asked the assistance of Mr. Seshadri, a doctoral student from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS and Gubbi Labs chief scientist Gururaja KV, who all worked to describe and name the new frog. "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," the researchers said in the paper published online in the journal PLOS ONE. The new tiny frog is colored pale brown with black patterns on its flank, feet, hands and dorsum. It creates a call that can be mistaken for that of a cricket. "By naming the frog after its habitat, we hope to draw attention to the endangered rock formations that are of ecological importance," said Mr. Seshadri adding that the discovery could change the perception of people on the region they called "wastelands". The researchers call for conservation interventions since laterite areas especially in India do not receive protection and are just considered wastelands. Protecting these regions is important and implementing interventions will prevent further degradation. Policies that may govern habitats should be explored to protect the laterite areas that are important to the survival of Microhyla laterite. "Since M. laterite appears to be restricted to laterite rock formations along the West coast, further research on determining divergence times of M. laterite and testing for an association with laterite formations would enable a better understanding of biogeography, systematics and paleo-ecology," the researchers added.

Lele S.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment | Srinivasan V.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment
Ecological Economics | Year: 2013

Economic valuation of ecosystem benefits and their aggregation in a benefit-cost analysis (BCA) framework is the norm in mainstream environmental economics. But valuation and BCA have also attracted criticisms. 'Internal' criticisms point to the absence of alternative scenarios in valuation, overlooking of ecological trade-offs and dis-services, and inattention to context. Others criticize aggregation across diverse stakeholders and the problem of non-monetizable benefits, and dismiss BCA as fatally flawed. They suggest approaches such as deliberative decision-making and multi-criteria analysis. We propose a middle path that uses the strengths of economic analysis for decision support while avoiding the pitfalls. We disaggregate economic impacts by stakeholder groups, link ecosystem changes to benefits as well as dis-benefits, and examine how socio-technological context shapes the magnitude of economic impact. We illustrate this approach by studying the impact of creating the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple wildlife sanctuary in the Western Ghats forests of southern India. Our analysis shows that while some stakeholders are net beneficiaries, others are net losers. Changes in forest rights, irrigation technologies, and ecosystem dynamics influence the magnitude of benefits and sometimes convert gainers into losers. Such disaggregated analysis can provide useful information for deliberative decision-making and important academic insights on how economic value is generated. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Nagendra H.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment | Nagendra H.,Indiana University | Reyers B.,Natural Environment Research Council | Lavorel S.,CNRS Alpine Ecology Laboratory
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability | Year: 2013

We lack sufficient understanding of the processes by which biodiversity alterations induced by land cover change impact ecosystem functioning. An understanding of the mechanistic role of biodiversity is required to provide a functional perspective on ecosystem service delivery. To bridge this gap, investigating complementarity and heterogeneity in functional traits within species groups or across trophic levels is particularly relevant. Such an understanding will then facilitate spatial mapping of areas of co-occurrence of multiple ecosystem services, as well as of critical trade-offs between monetized, cultural and other supporting ecosystem services that need to be considered as hard constraints to ecosystem management. In doing so, the nature and underpinnings of tradeoffs between bundles of ecosystem services accruing to different regions and groups of people, impacting equity and wellbeing, will be uncovered to support improved policy and land planning. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Srinivasan V.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences | Year: 2015

The developing world is rapidly urbanizing. One of the challenges associated with this growth will be to supply water to growing cities of the developing world. Traditional planning tools fare poorly over 30-50 year time horizons because these systems are changing so rapidly. Models that hold land use, economic patterns, governance systems or technology static over a long planning horizon could result in inaccurate predictions leading to sub-optimal or paradoxical outcomes. Most models fail to account for adaptive responses by humans that in turn influence water resource availability, resulting in coevolution of the human-water system. Is a particular trajectory inevitable given a city's natural resource endowment, is the trajectory purely driven by policy or are there tipping points in the evolution of a city's growth that shift it from one trajectory onto another? Socio-hydrology has been defined as a new science of water and people that will explicitly account for such bi-directional feedbacks. However, a particular challenge in incorporating such feedbacks is imagining technological, social and political futures that could fundamentally alter future water demand, allocation and use. This paper offers an alternative approach - the use of counterfactual trajectories - that allows policy insights to be gleaned without having to predict social futures. The approach allows us to "reimagine the past"; to observe how outcomes would differ if different decisions had been made. The paper presents a "socio-hydrological" model that simulates the feedbacks between the human, engineered and hydrological systems in Chennai, India over a 40-year period. The model offers several interesting insights. First, the study demonstrates that urban household water security goes beyond piped water supply. When piped supply fails, users turn to their own wells. If the wells dry up, consumers purchase expensive tanker water or curtail water use and thus become water insecure. Second, unsurprisingly, different initial conditions result in different trajectories. But initial advantages in piped infrastructure are eroded if the utility is unable to expand the piped system to keep up with growth. Both infrastructure and sound management decisions are necessary to ensure household water security although the impacts of mismanagement may not manifest until much later when the population has grown and a multi-year drought strikes. Third, natural resource endowments can limit the benefits of good policy and infrastructure. Cities can boost recharge through artificial recharge schemes. However, cities underlain by productive aquifers can better rely on groundwater as a buffer against drought, compared to cities with unproductive aquifers. © Author(s) 2015.

Athreya V.,Wildlife Conservation Society | Odden M.,Hedmark University College | Linnell J.D.C.,Norwegian Institute for Nature Research | Krishnaswamy J.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment | Karanth U.,Wildlife Conservation Society
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Protected areas are extremely important for the long term viability of biodiversity in a densely populated country like India where land is a scarce resource. However, protected areas cover only 5% of the land area in India and in the case of large carnivores that range widely, human use landscapes will function as important habitats required for gene flow to occur between protected areas. In this study, we used photographic capture recapture analysis to assess the density of large carnivores in a human-dominated agricultural landscape with density >300 people/km2 in western Maharashtra, India. We found evidence of a wide suite of wild carnivores inhabiting a cropland landscape devoid of wilderness and wild herbivore prey. Furthermore, the large carnivores; leopard (Panthera pardus) and striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena) occurred at relatively high density of 4.8±1.2 (sd) adults/100 km2 and 5.03±1.3 (sd) adults/100 km2 respectively. This situation has never been reported before where 10 large carnivores/100 km2 are sharing space with dense human populations in a completely modified landscape. Human attacks by leopards were rare despite a potentially volatile situation considering that the leopard has been involved in serious conflict, including human deaths in adjoining areas. The results of our work push the frontiers of our understanding of the adaptability of both, humans and wildlife to each other's presence. The results also highlight the urgent need to shift from a PA centric to a landscape level conservation approach, where issues are more complex, and the potential for conflict is also very high. It also highlights the need for a serious rethink of conservation policy, law and practice where the current management focus is restricted to wildlife inside Protected Areas. © 2013 Athreya et al.

Seshadri K.S.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment | Ganesh T.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment
Forest Ecology and Management | Year: 2011

The presence of roads in any landscape is known to negatively influence terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Many tourist destinations and religious enclaves in developing countries are inside protected areas (PA). They are well connected by roads and attract thousands of visitors. The effect of such large human congregations inside PA on biodiversity is not well understood. Here, we address the impacts of increased vehicular traffic due to religious tourism on local fauna inside the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in south India. We sampled sections of surfaced roads for mortalities before and during an annual festival across three habitats in 2008 and 2009. Millipedes, anurans, insects and reptiles dominated the mortalities and mammals avoided the roads. A total of 1413 individuals belonging to 56 species were killed on roads. Nocturnal species constituted 50% of these mortalities and 64% of the species composition. There was a 299% increase in road mortalities and 648% increase in nocturnal species mortality during the festival compared to those before the festival. Mean mortalities varied across habitats and were highest in moist deciduous forests. Mortalities were influenced significantly by vehicular traffic rather than rainfall. Indications of a temporary local extinction were evident beyond certain threshold of vehicular movement. The number of vehicles plying on the roads was three times higher than the threshold level as determined in this study. The festival also had a spillover effect by causing increased mortalities on roads not connected to the temple. We discuss several strategies to minimize impacts due to large scale vehicular movement inside protected areas. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Nagendra H.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment | Nagendra H.,Indiana University | Ostrom E.,Indiana University
Ecology and Society | Year: 2014

The south Indian city of Bangalore provides a challenging yet representative context within which to examine issues of governance of urban social-ecological commons. The city was once famous for its numerous large water bodies, which have witnessed tremendous encroachment and pollution in recent years. These water bodies, called tanks or lakes, were typically managed by adjacent village communities but are now administered by a number of government departments involved with aspects of lake management, with multiple overlapping jurisdictions. The public's perceptions of lakes has also changed with urbanization, transitioning from community spaces valued for water and cultural services to urban recreational spaces used largely by joggers and walkers. We focus on a set of seven lakes located in the urbanizing peripheral areas of southeast Bangalore. Some water bodies have been restored and managed effectively by newly forged collaborations between citizens and local government. Others are extremely polluted, and some have completely dried up and have been encroached. We use a social-ecological system (SES) framework to investigate why some locations have been successful in negotiating changes in governance from community-based systems to state management following urbanization, whereas other lakes have deteriorated. We use seven second-tier SES variables that were associated with self-organization in previous research: size of resource system, number of actors, leadership, social capital, importance of resource, existence of operational-choice rules, and existence of informal mechanisms for monitoring. We also include three third-tier variables previously identified as important in urban lake commons in Bangalore: scale and type of pre-existing pollution, exclusion of socioeconomic groups from the planning process, and networking with government organizations. We use this subset of 10 variables to examine social outcomes of the lakes, which we define as the extent of collective action by residents working together for lake restoration and ecological outcomes based on the ecological condition of the lakes. Collective action was low in only one of seven lakes, which challenges the presumption that citizens will not organize efforts to cope with common-pool problems. However, only two of seven lakes were highly successful in regard to both the extent of collective action and the level of ecological performance. While one lake was small and the other moderate in size, these two cases shared similar ranking in all other variables. Both lakes were polluted at a relatively low level compared with the other lakes, and in both cases, the leaders of local groups were able to network with government officials to clean up the lakes. Unfortunately, the challenge of cleaning up urban lakes after many decades of pollution is very difficult without effective interaction with various governmental units. Our analysis illustrates the usefulness of the SES framework in examining the combination of variables that makes a collective difference in affecting the outcomes of collective action and ecological performance. Our findings illustrate the need for polycentric arrangements in urban areas, whereby local residents are able to organize in diverse ways that reflect their own problems and capabilities, but can also work jointly with larger-scale governments to solve technical problems requiring changes in major engineering works as well as acquiring good scientific information. Such arrangements can reduce transaction costs for city governments by actively engaging local communities in processes that include coordination of collective activities, design of inclusive and locally suited ecological and social restoration goals, and planning and enforcement of regulations limiting access and withdrawal. At a time when many city governments are facing financial and administrative challenges that limit their ability to regulate and maintain urban commons, models of public-community partnerships could provide more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable institutional alternatives. This is an aspect that needs significant further consideration because the attention of most urban planners and scholars has remained on privatization while studies of successful instances of cooperative action in the urban context remain few and far between. © 2014 by the author(s).

Lele S.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment | Springate-Baginski O.,University of East Anglia | Lakerveld R.,Wageningen University | Deb D.,The Interdisciplinary Center
Conservation and Society | Year: 2013

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) has taken the environmental science and policy literature by storm, and has become almost the approach to thinking about and assessing the nature-society relationship. In this review, we ask whether and in what way the ES concept is a useful way of organising research on the nature-society relationship. We trace the evolution of the different versions of the concept and identify key points of convergence and divergence. The essence of the concept nevertheless is that the contribution of biotic nature to human well-being is unrecognised and undervalued, which results in destruction of ecosystems. We discuss why this formulation has attracted ecologists and summarise the resultant contributions to research, particularly to the understanding of indirect or regulating services. We then outline three sets of weaknesses in the ES framework: confusion over ecosystem functions and biodiversity, omission of dis-services, trade-offs and abiotic nature, and the use of an economic valuation framework to measure and aggregate human well-being. Underlying these weaknesses is a narrow problem frame that is unidimensional in its environmental concern and techno-economic in its explanation of environmental degradation. We argue that an alternative framing that embraces broader concerns and incorporates multiple explanations would be more useful, and outline how this approach to understanding the nature-society relationship may be implemented.

Agency: European Commission | Branch: FP7 | Program: CP | Phase: SPA.2010.1.1-04 | Award Amount: 3.16M | Year: 2010

BIO_SOS (BIOdiversity multi-SOurce monitoring System: from Space TO Species is a response to the Call for proposals FP7- SPACE-2010-1, addressing topic SPACE.2010.1.1-04 Stimulating the development of GMES services in specific areas with application to (B) BIODIVERSITY. BIO_SOS is a pilot project for effective and timely multi-annual monitoring of NATURA 2000 sites and their surrounding in support to management decisions in sample areas, mainly in Mediterranean regions and for the reporting on status and trends according to National and EU obligations. The aim of BIO_SOS is two-fold: 1) the development and validation of a prototype multi-modular system to provide a reliable long term biodiversity monitoring service at high to very high-spatial resolution; 2) to embed monitoring information (changes) in innovative ecological (environmental) modelling for Natura 2000 site management. The system will be developed and validated within ecologically sensitive sampling sites and their borders exposed to combined human-induced pressures. Different environmental characteristics of the selected sites have been considered in order to ensure system robustness. Sites characteristics ranges from mountain rough to flat coastal morphologies, from rangeland to human dominated landscapes and land uses. BIO_SOS intends to deeply investigate issues related to very high spatial (VHR) (and spectral) resolution Earth Observation data (EO) image processing for automatic land cover maps updating and change detection. Such maps are at the base of biodiversity indicators provision. On the other hand, it intends to develop a modelling framework to combine multi-scale (high to very high resolution) EO data and in-situ/ancillary data to provide indicators and their trends. This means the development of more appropriate and accurate models in support to a deeper understanding, assessment and prediction of the impacts that human induced pressures may have on biodiversity loss.

Shivanna K.R.,Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment
Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy | Year: 2015

Weeds have evolved a number of adaptations to thrive even under adverse conditions. One of the adaptations is their ability to set seeds even under pollination uncertain environments through autogamous self-pollination. Autogamous pollination which provides reproductive assurance (RA) is critical in annual weeds as they get only one chance to set seeds in their life; if they miss this chance their survival is threatened. In perennial weeds, however, RA through autogamous self-pollination is not so critical as they get repeated chances to set seeds; lack of seed set in some years does not affect their survival. There is very little information on pollination strategies of perennial weeds particularly of Indian species. To test this prediction, studies were carried out on five Indian perennial weeds - Cassia auriculata, Ipomoea obscura, Oxalis corniculata, Plumbago zeylanica and Dodonaea viscosa. Seed set in the populations of Ipomoea, Oxalis and Plumbago was exclusively dependent on autogamous pollination as they did not attract any pollinators and there was no difference in the extent of seed set in bagged and open-pollinated flowers. Autogamy was absent in Cassia; it depended exclusively on pollination by Xylocopa sp. Dodonaea depended on wind for pollen transfer. Thus, in agreement with the expectation, autogamy is not critical in perennial weed species and their pollination strategies vary from complete autogamy to obligate outbreeding, similar to non-weedy species. © Printed in India.

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