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Ramesh Venkataraman, CR Hanumanth, K Anand
Junglescapes has been restoring degraded forests in a large tiger reserve in South India since 2008. The restoration sites consist of dry deciduous and thorn scrub ecosystems. Degradation factors include anthropogenic pressures and invasive alien species, resulting in soil erosion, high run-offs and denuded vegetation with low diversity of around 30 species. Initial restoration efforts were focused on introduction of saplings, mainly of tree species. Low rainfall levels of 600-800 mm a year along with fewer rainy days resulted in poor survival and growth rates of saplings. In 2010 the strategy was changed to assisted regeneration, focused on revival of natural processes. Rain water harvesting was undertaken through trenches, small water bodies and swales. This resulted in improved water retention, soil alleviation, reemergence of grasses and natural recruitment of pioneer species. Resultant increase in faunal presence facilitated seed dispersal from adjacent areas. Removal of invasive species opened up the forest floor for native vegetation. Both gully and sheet erosion were addressed. A ‘natural juvenile support’ methodology helped accelerate growth of naturally recruited plants. Significant ecosystem recovery is observed with over 70 tree species and 90 shrub species, including successional, recorded till now. We observe successional species appearing even without proximate seed sources, indicating that assisted natural regeneration facilitates regeneration from both local plant material as well as long-range seed dispersal. Assisted regeneration, combined with targeted species introduction based on gap-analysis, provides a low-cost and robust methodology that can enable tackling larger restoration areas given the same resources.
Conference Presentation, SER2021
Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program