FERAL: Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Hydrologic and carbon services in the Western Ghats: Response of forests and agro-ecosystems to extreme rainfall events


Despite decades of research, a comprehensive understanding of the linkages between carbon and water relationships in forested ecosystems has remained elusive. Most of the available data come from small experimental catchments in the temperate zone, and are as such not representative of the diversity of soil, vegetation and historical conditions in tropical landscapes, such as the Western Ghats in India. Given that these tropical regions support a large fraction of the human population and are subject to intense anthropogenic pressures, there is an urgent need to understand and predict the hydrological and carbon consequences of land-use and climate change in these dynamic landscapes.

In this field based project, we've set up gauging stations two basins in the southern Western Ghats. A nested approach is being followed through which the discharge of low order streams (2 to 5) is being measured along with rainfall and other climatic parameters in their catchments. We're collecting our final months of data, our third monsoon, which will feed into models and analysis. We hope to uncover some of the relationships between land cover and discharge (quality, quantity and duration), impacts of moisture on soil respiration and carbon storage and the link between discharge and sediment/nutrient transport in ralation to land cover types.


The main objectives of the project are:

  1. Understand the spatial and temporal dimensions of extreme rainfall events (ERE) in the Western Ghats.
  2. Determine the hydrologic and carbon dynamics consequences of large scale forestation in the Western Ghats and adjacent Deccan plateau.
  3. Assess the vulnerability ecosystems, natural, semi-natural and agro-ecosystems, to ERE.
  1. Spatial and temporal scale patterns and dynamics of high-intensity rainfall in the Western Ghats.
  2. Effects of extreme events on hydrologic, sediment and carbon export from undisturbed and disturbed ecosystems in the Western Ghats.
  3. Vulnerability of different agro-ecosystems to extreme events in terms of potential loss in productive potential due to decline in soil-moisture retention, infiltration and soil erosion.
  4. A UK-India workshop on extreme event hydrology will be held to provide an opportunity for UK and India scientists to discuss preliminary data from the project as well concepts and approaches for the future with stake-holders and policy makers.
  5. Two seminars with Indian policy makers at the beginning and near the completion of the project to ensure buy in and integration of research outcomes with policy level decision making.


Installing the ill-fated automatic weather station. Downloading data from a capacitance probe based water level recorder. Dry season flows at Bhavani temple.
Project Information


R.S. Bhalla
Srinivas Vaidyanathan

Project Information

Budget: ₹ 4,520,744
Project Area: Nilgiris and Aghnashini Basin, Western Ghats

Duration: January, 2012 to December, 2015

Collaborators and Role

Funding Agencies


Partner Institutes

  • Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment Project Lead
  • Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University Project Co-lead
  • National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) - Bangalore Project Partner


Project Images

A rain guage located in the "grassland catchment" of a second order stream.Testing a water sample at Saimane in the Aghnashini basin.Saving a stage sampler in Nilgiris.A young Sambar deer in a grassland invaded by Wattle in Nilgiris.
FERAL - once wild, runs wild again.