Integrated watershed based restoration of degraded ecosystems

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Anand Krishnamurthy

Publication Date:

Degraded ecosystems are deficient in both biotic and abiotic elements, including soil and hydrologic elements. These ecosystems have low vegetation cover and high soil exposure, leading to poor soil quality and water absorption capability. Water run-off during monsoons causes soil erosion and loss of topsoil impacts plant recruitment. This adverse cycle impacts resilience of the overall ecosystem and makes natural recovery difficult. This presentation discusses a watershed management approach to address these issues, implemented over the last five years in a scrub forest ecosystem adjacent to a major tiger reserve in South India. The project site covers 100 ha with a mix of hilly terrain and valleys, characterised by low vegetation cover, high soil erosion, and annual rainfall below 900 mm. Restoration objectives were to arrest and reverse soil erosion, improve water holding capacity, and revive grass and shrub cover. Mapping of the watershed at the landscape level helped to understand hydrological flows. Erosion control measures included gully plugs and contour trenches. Additional ground water enhancement was through check dams across streams. Innovative methods included saucers for grass revival and short trenches for naturally recruited juvenile plants. Seed dispersal and sapling plantings were also conducted. Main outcomes are a reversal of erosion, increase in grass and shrub cover, and revival of pioneer tree species. Vegetation monitoring is done against reference plots. Soil analyses indicate improvement in quality. Insect and bird surveys and monitoring of other fauna indicate good rewilding success. Involvement of indigenous community members enhanced project success significantly.

Resource Type:
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019

Society for Ecological Restoration