In India, Protected Areas (PA) constitute only about 4% of the land area and these PAs occur as small isolated management units within a matrix of reserve forest, forest plantations and production landscapes. Management efforts so far have been PA centric and only in the few years, the focus has changed to managing our remaining wildlife and wild habitats as landscape units.
As a first step towards a landscape level management, minimal efforts have gone into identifying coarse scale corridors, which are crucial for many ecological processes, including dispersal, gene flow and demographic rescue. As a result, our current efforts by governmental and non-governmental organizations have focused on mapping corridors and conserving areas that facilitate movement to maintain population connectivity. However, no systematic effort has been invested to identify important barriers to movement identify areas where restoration could most improve connectivity.
Thus understanding the impacts of barriers, complements corridor mapping, and will help by broadening the range of conservation alternatives available to managers to restore connectivity. It can inform decisions on trade-offs between restoration and protection; for example, land purchase may be substantially more costly than restoring a road that blocks an alternate corridor. This project seeks to establish protocols to evaluate the impacts of linear barriers in the Shencottah Gap a critical corridor for large mammals in the southern Western Ghats and use methods to optimise selection of areas that require restoration to enhance connectivity.
Preliminary results indicate that connectivity for tigers and elephants across the Shencottah gap can be restored and the corridors that we have identified are functional for some large mammals. However restoring connectivity needs a combination of structural modifications to linear intrusions and habitat improvement within the two corridors.
The progress so far: