FERAL: Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning

Monitoring changes in ecosystem services in key biodiversity areas in the Western Ghats biodiversity hot-spot

TitleMonitoring changes in ecosystem services in key biodiversity areas in the Western Ghats biodiversity hot-spot
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsVaidyanathan, S, Bhalla, RS, Nayak, RRamakant
Date Published12/2015
InstitutionFoundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning (FERAL)
CityPondicherry
TypeTechnical Report
Keywordsconservation monitoring, Ecosystem services, MODIS
Abstract

The Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF), since 2007, has directed investments to the tune of $6 million towards conservation initiatives in the Western Ghats biodiversity hot spot. Projects supported by CEPF covered direct conservation interventions, research and documentation of biodiversity and conservation challenges, and awareness raising regarding conservation.

In late 2013 a study was commissioned to determine whether there were any measurable changes in ecosystem services as a result of these interventions in the Western Ghats. These were to be measured in terms of 1) Extent of improvement in habitat as a proxy for biodiversity services, 2) Extent of improvement in hydrological services, and 3) Extent of improvement in carbon services. Findings are presented both as an overall analysis of trends across the Western Ghats as well as a comparison between key biodiversity areas (KBA) selected by the CEPF
for interventions (priority KBA) and those where interventions were not undertaken (non-priority KBA). This study also aimed to develop a scientifically valid and replicable framework for monitoring impacts of CEPF interventions on ecosystem services.

We used two principal sources of data namely, MODIS and Landsat for analysis. We used dynamic linear models to remove the effect of climatic variables (rainfall and temperature) on the observed trends in the three ecosystem services studied. Thus the reported trends are largely impacts of conservation interventions and other non-climatic processes.

Key results showed no significant change in any of the three ecosystem services in nearly half of the Western Ghats. In the remaining region, results showed a declining trend in NDVI as a proxy for biodiversity, but an increasing trend was observed in carbon storage and hydrologic services. When priority KBAs were compared with non-priority KBAs, a decreasing trend in NDVI was seen in a larger proportion of priority KBAs than non-priority KBAs. However, results from the carbon services indicate a greater proportion of area with increase in carbon sequestration in both priority and non-priority KBAs. The total amount of carbon sequestered by priority KBAs was almost twice that of non-priority KBAs. Results of the hydorlogical services show a greater proportion
of area with increase in blue water services (streamflow, soil moisture and ground water recharge) for both priority and non-priority KBAs. The total amount of blue water provided by priority KBAs was almost twice that of non-priority KBAs.

It is not possible to attribute the observed trends to interventions made by a single programme. Hence our results represent a combination of conservation actions by different players. Our study suggests that freely available remotely sensed products like MODIS and Landsat can be used efficiently to analyse trends in ecosystem services as a response to conservation/anthropogenic factors at a given site. The framework provided in this study can be improvised to monitor impact of climate change on ecosystem processes and services, and in predicting future changes in the ecosystem.

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