Wildlife in rainforest fragments

Life in the treetops and undergrowth in rainforest remnants

The animal life of the Western Ghats rainforests is rich and unique, with hundreds of vertebrate and thousands of invertebrate species, including a large fraction found only in the region. Even when continuous forests are reduced to fragments, they act as refuges and animal corridors and need to be conserved.

  • False vampire bat (Megaderma spasma)

  • Small-clawed Otter (Ayonyx cinerea)

  • Short-nosed Fruit Bat (Cyanopterus brachyotis)

Effects of forest fragmentation

Many animals of the Western Ghats, such as the endemic primates lion-tailed macaque and Nilgiri langur, are mainly found in the tropical rainforest habitat. Besides occurring in continuous forests within protected areas, many species in the Western Ghats have significant populations in rainforest fragments outside protected areas, such as within tea and coffee plantations. Over the years, we have tried to understand how forest fragmentation affects various animal groups in the Anamalai hills. This includes:

  • diurnal larger mammals, such as deer, squirrels, and primates
  • small mammals and carnivores, many of which are nocturnal
  • bats
  • birds
  • spiders

Our research has shown that fragments continue to play an important role as refuges for many species, besides acting as animal corridors. Even small fragments have conservation value, as persistence of many species is related to availability of suitable habitat or resources, rather than just the size of remnant. This suggests the need to also target fragments for protection and ecological restoration in order to expand conservation into wider landscapes.

Ltm with infant

Lion-tailed macaque with infant

People

Publications

  • Journal Article
    2017
    The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) project
    Lawrence N. Hudson et.al, Vena Kapoor
    Ecology and Evolution, Volume 7, Issue 1 Pages: 145–188

    The PREDICTS project—Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (www.predicts.org.uk)—has collated from published studies a large, reasonably representative database of comparable samples of biodiversity from multiple sites that differ in the nature or intensity of human impacts relating to land use. We have used this evidence base to develop global and regional statistical models of how local biodiversity responds to these measures. We describe and make freely available this 2016 release of the database, containing more than 3.2 million records sampled at over 26,000 locations and representing over 47,000 species. We outline how the database can help in answering a range of questions in ecology and conservation biology. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most geographically and taxonomically representative database of spatial comparisons of biodiversity that has been collated to date; it will be useful to researchers and international efforts wishing to model and understand the global status of biodiversity.

    Link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.2579/full

  • Journal Article
    2017
    Bats in the Ghats: Agricultural intensification reduces functional diversity and increases trait filtering in a biodiversity hotspot in India
    Claire F R Wordley, M Sankaran, Divya Mudappa, J D Altringham
    Biological Conservation 210: 48-55.

    The responses of bats to land-use change have been extensively studied in temperate zones and the neotropics, but little is known from the palaeotropics. Effective conservation in heavily-populated palaeotropical hotspots requires a better understanding of which bats can and cannot survive in human-modified landscapes. We used catching and acoustic transects to examine bat assemblages in the Western Ghats of India, and identify the species most sensitive to agricultural change. We quantified functional diversity and trait filtering of assemblages in forest fragments, tea and coffee plantations, and along rivers in tea plantations with and without forested corridors, compared to protected forests.

    Functional diversity in forest fragments and shade-grown coffee was similar to that in protected forests, but was far lower in tea plantations. Trait filtering was also strongest in tea plantations. Forested river corridors in tea plantations mitigated much of the loss of functional diversity and the trait filtering seen on rivers in tea plantations without forested corridors. The bats most vulnerable to intensive agriculture were frugivorous, large, had short broad wings, or made constant frequency echolocation calls. The last three features are characteristic of forest animal-eating species that typically take large prey, often by gleaning.

    Ongoing conservation work to restore forest fragments and retain native trees in coffee plantations should be highly beneficial for bats in this landscape. The maintenance of a mosaic landscape with sufficient patches of forest, shade-grown coffee and riparian corridors will help to maintain landscape wide functional diversity in an area dominated by tea plantations.

  • Journal Article
    2016
    Range extension of the endangered Salim Ali’s Fruit Bat Latidens salimalii (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) in the Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu, India.
    Claire F R Wordley, Eleni K Foui, Divya Mudappa, Mahesh Sankaran, J. D. Altringham
    Journal of Threatened Taxa 8: 9486-9490. http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/jott.2796.8.12.9486-9490
  • Popular Article
    2016
    Icons of Anamalais: Malabar Whistling Thrush
    Pollachi Papyrus, July – September 3(3): 38-41.

    Shorter, edited version of article ‘Musician of the Monsoon’ that appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on 6 Sep 2009.

    Read here: http://thepapyrus.in/index.php/malabar-whistling-thrush/

  • Popular Article
    2016
    Hornbills: the feathered foresters.
    Mudappa, D. 2016. JLR Explore, 15 May 2016.

    Most of us are familiar with charismatic mammals such as tigers, elephants and apes. And there are charismatic species amongst birds too: bustards, cranes, eagles. But in the Asian and African tropics are birds that gain charisma from their large size, spectacular appearance, and extraordinary breeding habits: the hornbills.

    Read here: http://jlrexplore.com/explore/focus/hornbills

  • Popular Article
    2016
    Rātriñcaranmār [In Malayalam: Night rangers, article on small carnivores].
    Koodu, October 4(5): 70-72.
    Download

    PDF, 496 KB

  • Popular Article
    2015
    Current ecological concerns in the power sector: options to avoid or minimise impacts
    Pages 89-100 in M N Goswami and P Chaudhry (editors) An Epochal Shift in the Idea of India-Meeting aspirations? IPPAI Knowledge Report, Independent Power Producers Association of India, New Delhi.
    Download

    PDF, 1.36 MB

  • Journal Article
    2015
    Landscape scale habitat suitability modelling of bats in the Western Ghats of India:Bats like something in their tea
    Claire F R Wordley, Mahesh Sankaran, Divya Mudappa, John D Altringham
    Biological Conservation 191: 529-536.
    Download

    PDF, 1.92 MB

    To conserve biodiversity it is imperative that we understand how different species respond to land use change, and determine the scales at which habitat changes affect species' persistence. We used habitat suitability models (HSMs) at spatial scales from 100–4000 m to address these concerns for bats in the Western Ghats of India, a biodiversity hotspot of global importance where the habitat requirements of bats are poorly understood. We used acoustic and capture data to build fine scale HSMs for ten species (Hesperoptenus tickelli, Miniopterus fuliginosus, Miniopterus pusillus, Myotis horsfieldii, Pipistrellus ceylonicus, Megaderma spasma, Hipposideros pomona, Rhinolophus beddomei, Rhinolophus indorouxii and Rhinolophus lepidus) in a tea-dominated landscape. Small (100–500 m) scale habitat variables (e.g. percentage tea plantation cover) and distances to habitat features (e.g. distance to water) were the strongest predictors of bat occurrence, likely due to their high mobility, which enables them to exploit even small or isolated foraging areas. Most species showed a positive response to coffee plantations grown under native shade and to forest fragments, but a negative response to more heavily modified tea plantations. Two species were never recorded in tea plantations. This is the first study of bats in tea planta- tions globally, and the first ecological Old World bat study to combine acoustic and capture data. Our results suggest that although bats respond negatively to tea plantations, tea-dominated landscapes that also contain forest fragments and shade coffee can nevertheless support many bat species.

  • Popular Article
    2015
    Restoring the fabric
    Sanctuary Asia, June 2015, 35(6): 53.
    Download

    PNG, 339 KB

  • Journal Article
    2014
    Bats in Indian coffee plantations: doing more good than harm?
    Claire Wordley, John Altringham, T R Shankar Raman
    Current Science 107: 1958-1960.
    Download

    PDF, 3.64 MB

    Many bat species occur in Indian coffee plantations and despite sporadic reports of damage to commercial coffee crops, the literature shows little evidence for these claims. Measures that have been proposed to ‘control’ fruit bats are likely to be ineffective and even counter-productive. Instead, insect-eating bats should be encouraged by planters as they help control herbivorous and disease-carrying insects, while fruit bats pollinate flowers and disperse seeds of many useful plants and shade tree species. More research is needed to quantify any crop damage caused by bats and to look for sustainable solutions where necessary.

    PDF also available here: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/107/12/1958.pdf

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