- Journal Article2014Local and Landscape Correlates of Primate Distribution and Extinction in Upper Brahmaputra ValleyConservation Biology 28(1): 95-106Download
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Habitat fragmentation affects species distribution and abundance, and drives extinctions. Es- calated tropical deforestation and fragmentation have confined many species populations to habitat rem- nants. How worthwhile is it to invest scarce resources in conserving habitat remnants within densely settled production landscapes? Are these fragments fated to lose species anyway? If not, do other ecologi- cal, anthropogenic, and species-related factors mitigate the effect of fragmentation and offer conservation opportunities? We evaluated, using generalized linear models in an information-theoretic framework, the effect of local- and landscape-scale factors on the richness, abundance, distribution, and local extinction of 6 primate species in 42 lowland tropical rainforest fragments of the Upper Brahmaputra Valley, northeastern India. On average, the forest fragments lost at least one species in the last 30 years but retained half their original species complement. Species richness declined as proportion of habitat lost increased but was not significantly affected by fragment size and isolation. The occurrence of western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) and capped langur (Trachypithecus pileatus) in fragments was inversely related to their isolation and loss of habitat, respectively. Fragment area determined stump-tailed (Macaca arctoides) and northern pig-tailed macaque occurrence (Macaca leonina). Assamese macaque (Macaca assamensis) distribution was affected negatively by illegal tree felling, and rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) abundance increased as habitat heterogeneity increased. Primate extinction in a fragment was primarily governed by the extent of divergence in its food tree species richness from that in contiguous forests. We suggest the conservation value of these fragments is high because collectively they retained the entire original species pool and individually retained half of it, even a century after fragmentation. Given the extensive habitat and species loss, however, these fragments urgently require protection and active ecological restoration to sustain this rich primate assemblage.
- Journal Article2014A penny saved is a penny earned: lean season foraging strategy of an alpine ungulateAnimal Behaviour 92, 93-100
- Journal Article2014Long-lived benthic predators require structurally stable reefs in the face of repeated climate-change disturbancesCoral Reefs. 33: 289-302
Benthic recovery from climate-related disturbances does not always warrant a commensurate functional recovery for reef-associated fish communities. Here, we examine the distribution of benthic groupers (family Serranidae) in coral reef communities from the Lakshadweep archipelago (Arabian Sea) in response to structural complexity and long-term habitat stability. These coral reefs that have been subject to two major El Nin ̃o Southern Oscillation-related coral bleaching events in the last decades (1998 and 2010). First, we employ a long-term (12-yr) benthic- monitoring dataset to track habitat structural stability at twelve reef sites in the archipelago. Structural stability of reefs was strongly driven by exposure to monsoon storms and depth, which made deeper and more sheltered reefs on the eastern aspect more stable than the more exposed (western) and shallower reefs. We surveyed groupers (species richness, abundance, biomass) in 60 sites across the entire archipelago, representing both exposures and depths. Sites were selected along a gradient of structural complexity from very low to high. Grouper biomass appeared to vary with habitat stability with significant differences between depth and exposure; sheltered deep reefs had a higher grouper biomass than either sheltered shallow or exposed (deep and shallow) reefs. Species richness and abundance showed similar (though not significant) trends. More interestingly, average grouper biomass increased exponentially with structural complexity, but only at the sheltered deep (high stability) sites, despite the availability of recovered structure at exposed deep and shallow sites (lower-stability sites). This trend was especially pronounced for long-lived groupers (life span [10 yrs). These results suggest that long-lived groupers may prefer temporally stable reefs, independent of the local availability of habitat structure. In reefs subject to repeated disturbances, the presence of structurally stable reefs may be critical as refuges for functionally important, long-lived species like groupers.
- Journal Article2014Positive interactions between Irrawaddy dolphins and artisanal fishers in the Chilika Lagoon of eastern India are driven by ecology, socio-economics and cultureAmbio
In human-dominated landscapes, interactions and perceptions towards wildlife are influenced by multi- dimensional drivers. Understanding these drivers could prove useful for wildlife conservation. We surveyed the attitudes and perceptions of fishers towards threatened Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) at Chilika Lagoon India. To validate the drivers of fisher perceptions, we : (1) observed dolphin foraging behavior at stake nets, and (2) compared catch per unit effort (CPUE) and catch income of fishers from stake nets in the presence and absence of foraging dolphins. We found that fishers were mostly positive towards dolphins, believing that dolphins augmented their fish catch and using culture to express their perceptions. Foraging dolphins were observed spending half their time at stake nets and were associated with significantly higher catch income and CPUE of mullet (Liza sp.), a locally preferred food fish species. Wildlife conservation efforts should use the multidimensional drivers of human–wildlife interactions to involve local stakeholders in management.
- Journal Article2014An elephantine challenge: human–elephant conflict distribution in the largest Asian elephant population, southern IndiaBiodiversity Conservation DOI 10.1007/s10531-014-0621-xDownload
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Wildlife conservation is a complex issue especially when it involves large carnivores or mega-herbivores that are conflict-prone. Karnataka state in southern India is known to harbor high density of wild elephants. This conservation success story also has opportunity costs for communities living in close proximity to elephants. Despite the fact that human–elephant conflict is a serious conservation and social issue, there is little quantitative understanding of conflict especially over large areas. Here we conduct the first analysis of human–elephant conflict distribution, severity and explanatory factors over the entire state of Karnataka. We use data from the state forest department records on villages that experience conflict, compensation payments made by the government, elephant den- sities, forest cover and perimeter, and presence of physical barriers to mitigate elephant conflict. In total, 60,939 incidences of crop loss were reported and US$ 2.99 m paid in compensation during April 2008–March 2011. A total of 91 people were killed by ele- phants and 101 elephants died in retaliatory killings during the study period. A total of 9.4 % of the state’s geographic area covering 25 of the 42 forest administrative divisions were affected. There was no significant difference in conflict incidences or compensation given between protected areas and non-protected areas. There was no correlation between conflict incidences/unit area and elephant density, forest cover, forest perimeter of pro- tected areas and presence of physical barriers. The results depict the importance of efficient management of physical barriers, conserving key habitat linkages, and acts as baseline data for future work.
- Thesis2014Seed dispersal by hornbills, conservation status and the consequences of their decline in tropical forests of Arunachal PradeshManipal University, Manipal, Karnataka
- Journal Article2014Vigorous Dynamics Underlie a Stable Population of the Endangered Snow Leopard Panthera uncia in Tost Mountains, South Gobi, MongoliaPLoS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101319
- Journal Article2014Accounting for false positives improves estimates of occupancy from key informant interviewsDiversity and Distributions 20: 223-235Download
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Much research in conservation biogeography is fundamentally dependent on obtaining reliable data on species distributions across space and time. Such data are now increasingly being generated using various types of public surveys. These data are often integrated with occupancy models to evaluate distributional patterns, range dynamics and conservation status of multiple species at broad spatio-temporal scales. Occupancy models have traditionally corrected for imperfect detection due to false negatives while implicitly assuming that false positives do not occur. However, public survey data are also prone to false-positive errors, which when unaccounted for can cause bias in occupancy estimates. We test whether false positives in a dataset collected from public surveys lead to overestimation of species site occupancy and whether estimators that simultaneously account for false-positive and false-negative errors improve occupancy estimates.
Western Ghats, India.
We fit occupancy models that simultaneously account for false positives and negatives to data collected from a large-scale key informant interview survey for 30 species of large vertebrates. We tested their performance against standard occupancy models that account only for false negatives.
Standard occupancy models that correct only for false negatives tended to overestimate species occupancy due to false-positive errors. Occupancy models that simultaneously accounted for false positives and negatives had greater support [lower Akaike's information criterion (AIC)] and, consistent with predictions, generated systematically lower occupancy estimates than standard models. Furthermore, accounting for false positives improved the accuracy of occupancy estimates despite the added complexity to the statistical estimator.
Integrating large-scale public surveys with occupancy modelling approaches is a powerful tool for informing conservation and management. However, in many if not most cases, it will be important to explicitly account for false positives to ensure the reliability of occupancy estimates obtained from public survey datasets such as key informant interviews, volunteer surveys, citizen science programmes, historical archives and acoustic surveys.
- Journal Article2014Genetic diversity and population structure of Lantana camara in India indicates multiple introductions and gene flow.Plant Biology. 16(3): 651-658.Download
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Lantana camara is a highly invasive plant, which has spread over 60 countries and island groups of Asia, Africa and Australia. In India, it was introduced in the early nineteenth century, since when it has expanded and gradually established itself in almost every available ecosystem. We investigated the genetic diversity and population structure of this plant in India in order to understand its introduction, subsequent range expansion and gene flow. A total of 179 individuals were sequenced at three chloroplast loci and 218 individuals were genotyped for six nuclear microsatellites. Both chloroplasts (nine haplotypes) and microsatellites (83 alleles) showed high genetic diversity. Besides, each type of marker confirmed the presence of private polymorphism. We uncovered low to medium population structure in both markers, and found a faint signal of isolation by distance with microsatellites. Bayesian clustering analyses revealed multiple divergent genetic clusters. Taken together, these findings (i.e. high genetic diversity with private alleles and multiple genetic clusters) suggest that Lantana was introduced multiple times and gradually underwent spatial expansion with recurrent gene flow.
- Journal Article2014Roads emerging as a critical threat to leopards in India?Cat News 60 Spring 2014 (30)
Leopards (Panthera pardus) face severe threat from poaching, loss of habitat and killing in retaliation to conflict. However, in India a new threat appears to be emerging in the form of vehicle accident mortalities. In the past 60 months 23 leopards have been recorded as killed due to road accidents in the southern Indian state of Karnataka alone. When roads overlap with important wildlife habitats, considerable scrutiny and critical conservation planning is urgently required
- Journal Article2014Seagrasses in the age of sea turtle conservation and shark overfishingFrontiers in Marine Science 1:28. doi: 10.3389/fmars. 2014.00028.Download
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Efforts to conserve globally declining herbivorous green sea turtles have resulted in promising growth of some populations. These trends could significantly impact critical ecosystem services provided by seagrass meadows on which turtles feed. Expanding turtle populations could improve seagrass ecosystem health by removing seagrass biomass and preventing of the formation of sediment anoxia. However, overfishing of large sharks, the primary green turtle predators, could facilitate turtle populations growing beyond historical sizes and trigger detrimental ecosystem impacts mirroring those on land when top predators were extirpated. Experimental data from multiple ocean basins suggest that increasing turtle populations can negatively impact seagrasses, including triggering virtual ecosystem collapse. Impacts of large turtle populations on seagrasses are reduced in the presence of intact shark populations. Healthy populations of sharks and turtles, therefore, are likely vital to restoring or maintaining seagrass ecosystem structure, function, and their value in supporting fisheries and as a carbon sink.
- Popular Article2014Nitya in the rainforestThe Hindu in School, 16 July
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- Journal Article2014Multi-scale factors influencing human attitudes towards snow leopards and wolves.Conservation Biology DOI: 10.1111/cobi.12320
- Thesis2014An investigation into the interactions among wild ungulates and livestock in the temperate forests of Kaj-i-nagManipal University, Manipal, Karnataka
- Popular Article2014Meat momos for everyone!The Hindu in School, 13 August