Community participative eco-restoration of degraded sacred groves in the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot in Southern India

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Meera Chandran

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Sacred groves are important ecological sites that are conserved by indigenous communities as biodiversity repositories. Kodagu in South India lies in Western Ghats, a World Heritage site and biodiversity hotspot. Kodagu is watershed of river Kaveri and home to many wildlife sanctuaries. Kodagu has a long tradition of conserving sacred groves and has over 1200 sacred groves covering 2% of its area. However, these repositories face anthropogenic pressures like diversion to commercial uses, fragmentation, over-exploitation resulting in degradation. Only 40% area remains intact in 1991 as compared to 1904. Many groves are impacted by invasive alien species like Lantana camera and Senna spectabilis. Forest First Samithi ( ), a grassroots ecological restoration non-profit, has been working for the last ten years on restoring degraded groves through a community-participative model. A diversity-maximisation methodology is practiced where over 150 indigenous species are introduced after removal of Lantana. Species selection is based on biological importance, keystone characteristics, threat status, medicinal value and riverine-ecosystem criticality. Contour trenches are dug along slopes to ensure soil moisture retention and prevention of rainwater run-off. Activities like nursery management, mulching provide livelihoods. All projects are initiated jointly with community involvement through Kodagu Model Forest Trust ( and with temple committees pledging their support. Key outcomes are improved custodianship of their ecology, livelihoods, revival of traditional ecological knowledge and creation of local stakeholder capacity, which are in line with IUCN principles. Ecologically restored groves provide for a germplasm of floral diversity with potential for propagation to nearby forests.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration