Biodiversity estimations have been typically carried out mostly in protected areas for a long time now. However, there remains an un-estimated diversity outside forests or the non-protected areas which are mostly not sampled and estimated scientifically. Further, human dominated systems like farms, plantations, etc. are agro-ecosystems that more prone to manipulation. There exists very little information on the diversity in these ecosystems that has resulted in a situation where we don't know what we are losing.
Building on our larger research theme of ‘Biodiversity outside Forests’, Project Ashoka was conceived to address this with a significant citizen-science interface. The objective of the research is to initially estimate the biodiversity in the non-protected areas of south-central Deccan Plateau between the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats. The estimations would involve assessment of ants, amphibians, birds, butterflies, diatoms, fish, flora, and mammals. Some key questions that the research aims to answer are:
- What is the diversity profile in different ecosystems outside the protected areas?
- What is the variation in diversity across agricultural ecosystems under single and mixed crops?
- Do occurrences of certain species throw any light on the Biogeography of the region?
- Are there any relationships or patterns that a few groups favour specific ecosystems in non-protected areas?
Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Stations
In order to seek answers to these, Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) stations are being established in different locations. A small beginning has been made at Eco-station at Gubbi with a mud hut that also has an eco-toilet. In terms of biodiversity in the place, till date the number of species observed are:
• More than 100 species of birds
• 8 species of frogs
• 20+ species of butterflies
• 35+ species of flora
Going forward, such stations are planned in Bisle, near Mavinagundi and Kumta in the Western Ghats. All these stations will function as LTER stations with a citizen science interface. Our team will work with locals and students in realising the goals of Project Ashoka in a collaborative engagement. All these stations will function as a monitoring station that will collect a host of ecological and biophysical information. This will double up with weather station and habitat monitoring. The data will be shared on a curated portal. Eventually, the imagination is to transform these into information and outreach centers apart from being a LTER station that will have repositories of local ecological information. These stations will also have mechanisms for researchers from partner institutions to use the facilities and carry out their specific research.
Watch out this space for more updates and on our social media channels. Organizations interested to collaborate are encouraged to write to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.