- Popular Article2012Jalebis at the forest fenceThe Hindu in School, 6 March
- Popular Article2012Not just a boatmanThe Hindu in School, 5 September
- Journal Article2010Implications of conserving an ecosystem modifier: Increasing green turtle (Chelonia mydas) densities substantially alters seagrass meadowsBiological Conservation 143: 2730-2738
Ecosystem modifiers have the ability to significantly alter the ecosystem they inhabit sometimes with serious consequences for their own populations. We evaluated the ability of green turtles (Chelonia mydas) to modify seagrass ecosystems by their foraging activity. This study was conducted in a seagrass-dominated lagoon in the Lakshadweep Islands, Indian Ocean, where a stable high-density congregation of green turtles is present. We determined a gradient of turtle density in the lagoon and measured the intensity of turtle herbivory across the gradient. We then measured the impact of increasing grazing on seagrass structural parameters, growth and flowering along this gradient. Our results indicate that turtles substantially change seagrass meadow structure (canopy height, shoot length, width and density), reduce flowering and can potentially even cause changes in the species composition of the meadow. We discuss the implications of these results for seagrass ecosystem function, green turtle movement and human attitudes. When conserving ecosystem modifiers like the green turtle, any management strategy needs to include a detailed knowledge of the roles these species play in the ecosystems they inhabit.
- Journal Article2010Commercializing bycatch can push a fishery beyond economic extinctionConservation Letters 3: 277-285Download
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Tropical bottom trawling is among the most destructive fishing practices, catch- ing large quantities of bycatch, which are usually discarded. We used question- naire surveys of trawl fishers to look at changes in catches over the last 30 years (1978–2008) along India’s Coromandel Coast. We show that catches and in- come from target species have declined sharply over the last two decades. Meanwhile, costs of fishing have increased substantially and now almost ex- ceed income from target species. Over the same period, bycatch (which was traditionally discarded) has now become increasingly marketable, being sold for local consumption, and as fish meal to supply the region’s rapidly growing poultry industry. Without this income from bycatch, the fishery would scarcely be economically viable. While such a change in the use of bycatch is good news in terms of reducing waste and improving livelihoods, it is also responsible for pushing the Indian bottom trawl fishery beyond the economic extinction of its target species.
- Journal Article2010Trawling the shorelinesSeminar. September 2010. Nature without Borders: A symposium on innovative approaches to conserving nature and wildlife
Fishing in India has grown exponentially. It is an industry adapting to its own economic impulses, keeping itself afloat – quite literally – by responding to changes in supply and demand, seeking new markets, repackaging its products and by-products to woo these new markets, reinventing itself constantly in order to survive. The upshot of this industrial inventiveness is that a system of production that should have been designated unsustainable years ago, continues to persist at an increasing ecological cost. And since all of this happens beneath the waves, it largely escapes the noisy debates over the vanishing wilds.
In this paper we present a potted history of trawl fishing along the Indian coastline, and trace its ecological and economic fallout to coastal communities, both human and marine. We discuss the factors currently driving the economics of trawling within the Indian scenario, and explore potential directions towards a more meaningful management of this harvest. Our discussion focuses on fishery off the Coromandel coast, since that is the area we are most familiar with, but it is indicative of much of the rest of the Indian coastline.
- Popular Article2010My burrow the center of my lifeHornbill, January-March, 26-29.
- Book Chapter2010Status of Dugong dugon (Muller) in Andaman and Nicobar islands based on past records and traditional hunting by indigenous tribesin: Ramakrishna R, C. and Sivaperuman, C. (ed) Recent Trends in Biodiversity of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Zoological Survey of India, Kolkatta, 443-448.
- Popular Article2010Natural engineering: India's green infrastructureDeccan Herald, Op-ed Panorama page, 15 February 2010Download
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- Journal Article2010From Bathymetry to Bioshields: A review of post-tsunami ecological research in India and its implications for policyEnvironmental Management 46:329-338
More than half a decade has passed since the December 26th 2004 tsunami hit the Indian coast leaving a trail of ecological, economic and human destruction in its wake. We reviewed the coastal ecological research carried out in India in the light of the tsunami. In addition, we also briefly reviewed the ecological research in other tsunami affected countries in Asia namely Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and Maldives in order to provide a broader perspective of ecological research after tsunami. A basic search in ISI Web of Knowledge using keywords ‘‘tsunami’’ and ‘‘India’’ resulted in 127 peer reviewed journal articles, of which 39 articles were pertaining to ecological sciences. In comparison, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and Mal- dives had, respectively, eight, four, 21 and two articles pertaining to ecology. In India, bioshields received the major share of scientific interest (14 out of 39) while only one study (each) was dedicated to corals, seagrasses, sea- weeds and meiofauna, pointing to the paucity of research attention dedicated to these critical ecosystems. We noted that very few interdisciplinary studies looked at linkages between pure/applied sciences and the social sciences in India. In addition, there appears to be little correlation between the limited research that was done and its influence on policy in India. This review points to gap areas in eco- logical research in India and highlights the lessons learnt from research in other tsunami-affected countries. It also provides guidance on the links between science and policy that are required for effective coastal zone management.
- Newsletter2009The future of the dugongs in the Indian sub-continentSirenews, Newsletter of the IUCN Sirenia Specialist Group, Vol. No. 52.
- Popular Article2009In troubled watersHindustan Times, 21st January
- Journal Article2009First underwater sighting and preliminary behavioural observations of Dugongs(Dugong dugon) in the wild from Indian waters, Andaman Islands.Journal of Threatened Taxa 1 (1): 49-53.
- Report2008Strategies for reducing bycatch of susceptible speciesPolicy Brief. UNDP/UNTRS and NCF. Chennai
- Popular Article2008Out of the BlueSanctuary Asia, Vol. XXVIII No.1, 40-45.
- Journal Article2007First Post-tsunami Sighting of the Coconut Crab in the Nicobar IslandsOryx, 41(3) 1-2.
- Journal Article2006Local processes strongly influence post-bleaching benthic recovery in the Lakshadweep IslandsCoral Reefs. 25: 427-440Download
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The atoll reefs of the Lakshadweep, in the Indian Ocean suffered a catastrophic mortality of hard coral in the wake of the El Niño event of 1998. This study tracked changes to coral and other benthic elements in three atolls in the Lakshadweep from 2000 to 2003. The recovery of coral was highly site-specific, and appeared to be driven by differences in post-settlement survival of coral recruits, that were in turn, influenced by the local hydrodynamics of the atolls. Post bleaching recovery was highest on west-facing reefs, while recovery on east-facing reefs was very limited. However, no ‘phase-shift’ to macroalgal dominated reefs was evident. High herbivore pressures were perhaps the most important control of macroalgae. Five years after the mass mortality, the genera that showed the maximum gains represented a mix of different susceptibilities to bleaching, while some genera that were not particularly susceptible to bleaching showed significant declines. These results suggest that decline or recovery of coral is likely dependent on individual life history strategies, post-recruitment survival, and contingency.
- Journal Article2005Benthic recovery four years after an El Niño-induced coral mass mortality in the Lakshadweep atollsCurrent Science. 89(4): 694-699Download
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The reefs of the Lakshadweep suffered a mass mortality of coral in 1998, in the wake of an El Niño event of unprecedented severity. In 2002, we conducted a broadscale benthic survey of six atolls in this group to check if there were geographic trends in recovery patterns across the archipelago. Four years after the mass mortality, live coral cover was relatively low on most atolls, and thin algal turfs dominated the benthos. Clear benthic differences were apparent between eastern and western aspects of reefs, pointing to the importance of local hydrodynamic conditions in determining recovery rates. Where recovery was the most apparent, it was dominated by fast-growing and bleaching-resistant coral genera. Despite the apparent lack of recovery at many sites, the reef system did not show signs of having suffered a ‘phase shift’ to a macroalgal state. High herbivorous fish abundance was likely responsible in controlling macrophyte levels, and may be crucial for further benthic recovery in these reefs.
- Book Chapter2000India and Sri LankaCoral reefs of the Indian Ocean : their ecology and conservation (eds T. R. McClanahan, C. Shepperd & D. Obura), pp. 295-324.Oxford University Press, New York.Download
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The subcontinent of India occupies a large area of the tropical Indian Ocean, but it has a scant growth of coral reefs along its coasts. Several factors limit reef development here, chief among them being turbid waters stirred by monsoonal systems, fresh water runoff from rivers, and a heavy human population and development pressure along the entire coastline. The island complexes around India, in contrast, show healthy reef growth and support high species diversities. The biological affinities of the reefs include species assemblages typical of the western Indian Ocean and the southeast Asian and central Pacific fauna, and a large variety of habitats and environmental conditions. The reefs of India and Sri Lanka include some of the most used and degraded, as well as some of the most untouched in the region. Although marine protected areas in this region originate from the 1980s, environmental managers rely on an incomplete knowledge of the status and ecology of the reefs. With increasing resource-extraction pressure on these reefs, due to increasing human population and tourism, there is a danger of losing these ecosystems through ignorance and unplanned management. In this chapter we will give a broad overview of the physical and biogeographic influences that shape the reefs of the subcontinent and its islands, and present the major threats to their conservation. The conservation of these reefs may be more limited by their shared cultural and economic institutions so we will also attempt to synthesize the social, economic, and political environment within which rational management will take place, and to identify priority areas for future research and management.
- Journal Article2000Coral bleaching and mortality in three Indian reef regions during an El Niño southern oscillation eventCurrent Science. 79(12): 1723-1729Download
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The 1997–1998 El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event, which elevated Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) of tropical oceans by more than 3°C, was one of the most extreme ENSO events in recent history. Such increases in SSTs above the seasonal average can trigger widespread bleaching in coral reefs. This study examined bleaching in three Indian coral reef regions in relation to SSTs using quantitative rapid assessment methods between April and July, 1998. The Gulf of Kutch reefs showed an average of 11% bleached coral with no apparent bleaching-related mortality. In contrast, bleached coral comprised 82% of the coral cover in lagoon reefs of Lakshadweep and 89% of the coral cover in the Gulf of Mannar reefs. Bleaching-related mortality was high – 26% in Lakshadweep and 23% in Mannar. The coral mass mortality may have profound ecological and socio-economic implications and highlights the need for sustained monitoring for coral reef conservation in India.
- Report1999Rapid assessment of reef responses to elevated sea-water temperatures caused by El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Current System in Indian waters.NCF Technical Report. No. 2. Mysore