Friday, December 24, 2010


                             Wish you a very happy X'mas and New Year 

Next blog post will be only on 1st of January. Have a great time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roadsides Vegetation can be used as a Carbon Sink

I read the other day a very interesting paper on the possibility of using roadside vegetation as carbon sink.
The study was carried out through GIS techniques and two regions were considered. A set of equations was used to estimate the rate of occupancy over the study areas, as well as amounts of fixed C under the above scenarios. The authors say the average occupancy rate was 0.06%. The simulation showed a higher potential for C sequestration in scenario 2, being the estimated amounts of CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere per km of roadside: 131 tons of CO2 km-1 of highway to native species and 655 tons of CO2 km-1 of highway for exotic species (over period of 10 years for both estimates).  The authors claim that it is possible to predict the very high potential for C sequestration if managers and planners consider roadside as area for afforestation.

Roadside vegetation: estimation and potential for carbon sequestration
 Braga Alves C , Alves SH 
Journal of Biogeosciences and Forestry 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Delayed Legacy of Invasive Species

I am posting this in between my break

I read yesterday a very interesting paper titled “Socioeconomic legacy yields an invasion debt”

Globalization and economic growth are widely recognized as important drivers of biological invasions. Recent studies have demonstrated that on broad spatial scales, the impact of human activities overwhelms the influence of climate and geography on species invasions.   The new research demonstrate that socioeconomic legacies on alien-species richness are important across a broad array of taxonomic groups and might extend back at least one century. The authors say “However, many of the most problematic alien species are not recent arrivals but were introduced several decades ago. Hence, current patterns of alien-species richness may better reflect historical rather than contemporary human activities, a phenomenon which might be called “invasion debt.” Their results suggest that the consequences of the current high levels of socioeconomic activity on the extent of biological invasions will probably not be completely realized until several decades into the future.
Socioeconomic legacy yields an invasion debt

Freely available online through the PNAS open access option

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Cross Post from

We don't usually post the same thing on Highrange Tidings and Tahrcountry. Here is something that is of great interest to wildlife mangers. So I am posting here also, what I had posted on Tahrcountry. This is to facilitate better readership from the mangers.

A Must Read Paper for Wildlife Managers

I am still in the midst of my break. I just read this interesting paper on human leopard conflict and thought it is worth an immediate post.

Translocation as a Tool for Mitigating Conflict with Leopards in Human-Dominated Landscapes of India


Conservation Biology,

A few years back, I was pilloried by self styled environmentalists for opposing vehemently the translocation of a leopard from Wayand to Parmabikulam.  For the men at the top and for the uninitiated politicians it is a quick fix method for alleviating the man animal conflict. They never bother about the ecological impacts. A release without a comprehensive study of all factors involved is fraught with lot of imponderables.

VIDYA ATHREYA,     MORTEN ODDEN JOHN D. C. LINNELL and  ULLAS KARANTH  have  come up  with an excellent paper on the impacts of translocation of leopards based on their study in the Junnar region (4275 km2, 185 people/km2), Maharashtra, India. The authors’ report that prior to the large-scale translocation program, there was an average of four leopard attacks on humans each year between 1993 and 2001. Surprisingly after the translocation program was initiated, the average increased to 17 attacks.

The attacks decreased when leopards were removed for releases far away. According to the authors potential explanations for the aberrant behavior include increased aggression induced by stress of the translocation process, movement through unfamiliar human-dominated landscapes following release, and loss of fear of humans due to familiarity with humans acquired during captivity.

The study emphasize the potential ineffectiveness of translocation to reduce human–carnivore conflict   The authors suggest that making improvements to the administration of compensation programme for wildlife attacks and linking this to some form of insurance scheme that can be administered by local communities might help increase tolerance for low intensity, chronic predation on livestock by leopards. This is likely to decrease the demand for management action to remove leopards.

I feel this paper is a must read for the wildlife managers. So guys go ahead and read it.

I am thankful to Dr Ullas Karanth for sending me a copy of the paper.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Taking a Break

I am taking a break for the next 10 days. Consequently, there won't be any updates during this period.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Climate talks - Legally binding commitments not acceptable Jairam Rameshji

Dear Jairam Rameshji,
                                  I am writing what an ordinary citizen of the country feels. Remember it is these guys that have put politicians like you on the driver's seat.
                                 Legally binding commitments are not acceptable right now. May be at a distant future date, when things have been sorted out we can think about it. Your intention may be to give India's image a boost but it has proved counterproductive in the mind of the ordinary citizen He feels it is a sellout of country's interests.  We don't want any instrument that is against the present tenets of Kyoto protocol.

                               I am repeating here what I had written in one of my early blogpost. 
If each person on the planet has the right to the same carbon footprint, the scale and speed of emissions cuts required by developed nations is far greater than the commitments governments are currently willing to make
If the world is to have a 2-in-3 chance of staying within the 2 °C rise between now and 2050 no more than 750 billion tonnes of carbon can be released between these two dates. If this calculated emission is distributed according to population levels, many developed nations would face almost immediate carbon bankruptcy.
At current rates and with 4.6 per cent of global population, the US would receive a 35 billion tonne allowance between now and 2050. US would use it up in around six years. The European Union's budget would run out in 12 years and China's in 24.  India and Brazil's allowances would last 88 and 46 years respectively at current rates.
Industrialized countries are duty bound to carry out rapid and comprehensive decarbonisation if there is any credibility in their utterances. So take up the cudgel Rameshji instead of going on the defensive

Post Script: This is not about climate talk: This is about the pat down of Indian Ambassador in US. The ordinary citizen on the street feels that US ambassador to India also should also be subjected to same kind of searches. He does not want any statements like “We are taking up the matter with US”. If I am the external affairs minister I would keep quiet and put a probe up the arse of US ambassador on his next visit to an Indian airport.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tools for modeling wildlife corridors

A couple of my friends asked me the other day details about tools available for modeling wildlife corridors. To the best of my knowledge the ideal source of information for the job is

The copyright for the entire description belong to

Here is what is available at  They are best suited for designing corridors in a heterogenous landscape at a regional (e.g. 2 - 500 km long) scale.
CorridorDesigner  provides one method of modeling wildlife corridors with ArcGIS.

Here are some other free tools for modeling wildlife or ecological corridors, connectivity, or habitat.
Circuitscape is a stand-alone Python program which borrows algorithms from circuit theory to predict patterns of movement, gene flow, and genetic differentiation among populations in heterogeneous landscapes. It uses raster habitat maps as input, and predicts connectivity and movement patterns between user-defined points on the landscape. Circuitscape is distributed by Brad McRae of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at University of California, Santa Barbara.
The Connectivity Analysis Toolkit provides conservation planners with newly-developed tools for both linkage mapping and landscape-level 'centrality' analysis. Centrality refers to a group of landscape metrics that rank the importance of sites as gatekeepers for flow across a landscape network. The Toolkit allows users to develop and compare three contrasting centrality metrics based on input data representing habitat suitability or permeability, in order to determine which areas, across the landscape as a whole, would be priorities for conservation measures that might facilitate connectivity and dispersal. The Toolkit also allows application of these approaches to the more common question of mapping the best habitat linkages between a source and a target patch.
FunConn is a functional connectivity modeling toolbox for ArcGIS, distributed by Dave Theobald and the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University. The goal of the functional connectivity model is to allow landscape connectivity to be examined from a functional perspective. Functional connectivity recognizes that individuals, species or processes respond functionally (or behaviorally) to the physical structure of the landscape. From this perspective, landscape connectivity is specific to a landscape and species/individual/process under investigation.
Formerly called ArcRstats, the HabMod/ConnMod toolboxes produce multivariate habitat prediction rasters using ArcGIS and the open-source R statistical package for implementing classification and regression (CART), generalized linear models (GLM) and generalized additive models (GAM), and includes a connectivity modeling toolbox. The toolbox is distributed by Pat Halpin and the Marine Geospatial Ecology Laboratory at Duke University
Conefor Sensinode quantifies the importance of habitat areas for the maintenance or improvement of landscape connectivity. It is conceived as a tool for decision-making support in landscape planning and habitat conservation, through the identification and prioritization of critical sites for ecological connectivity.
Path Matrix is a tool for ArcView 3 to compute matrices of effective geographic distances among samples, based on a least-cost path algorithm. It was developed by Nicholas Ray of the Computational and Molecular Population Genetics Lab, University of Bern, Switzerland.
openModeller aims to provide a flexible, user friendly, cross-platform environment where the entire process of conducting a fundamental niche modeling experiment can be carried out. The software includes facilities for reading species occurrence and environmental data, selection of environmental layers on which the model should be based, creating a fundamental niche model and projecting the model into an environmental scenario.
StatMod is an extension for ArcView 3.3 that helps users create logistic regression and CART models using the statistical packages SAS and S-PLUS. It is distributed by Chris Garard of Utah State University.
Maxent provides a maximum-entropy approach for species habitat modeling. The software takes as input a set of layers or environmental variables (such as elevation, precipitation, etc.), as well as a set of georeferenced occurrence locations, and produces a model of the range of the given species. It is distributed by Princeton University.
GRASP (Generalized Regression and Spatial Prediction) is a package for the statistical softwares R and S-PLUS for creating predictive models of species distributions using Generalized Additive Models (GAMs). It is distributed by A. Lehmann, J.R. Leathwick and J.McC. Overton at the Landcare Research Institute, New Zealand.
BioMapper is a stand-alone package for developing ecological niche and habitat suitability models using only a species presence data. It is distributed by Alexandre Hirzel of the Laboratory For Conservation Biology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
DesktopGarp is a software package for biodiversity and ecologic research that allows the user to predict and analyze species distributions using presence data. The package is distributed by the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.
Spatial Data Modeler is a collection of geoprocessing tools for adding categorical maps with interval, ordinal, or ratio scale maps to produce a predictive map of where something of interest is likely to occur. The tools include the data-driven methods of Weights of Evidence, Logistic Regression, and two supervised and one unsupervised neural network methods, and a knowledge-driven method Fuzzy Logic.
PatchMorph is an extension for ArcMap which delineates habitat patches from a habitat suitability or land cover map.
Marxan delivers decision support for reserve system design. Marxan finds reasonably efficient solutions to the problem of selecting a system of spatially cohesive sites that meet a suite of biodiversity targets.
PANDA is a stand-alone application developed to provide a user friendly framework for systematic protected areas network design to ArcGIS users. Through the use of P.A.N.D.A. the designer can explore different hypothetical configurations of a system of protected areas in the planning area.
CLUZ is an ArcView GIS interface that allows users to design protected area networks and conservation landscapes. It can be used for on-screen planning and also acts as a link for the MARXAN conservation planning software. It is currently being developed at DICE and is funded by the British Government through their Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species.
LINK is a set of ArcGIS tools designed to analyze habitat patterns across a landscape. LINK uses species habitat matrices to model potential species habitat and habitat diversity. What sets LINK apart from its predecessors is that it uses raster data sources—raster data sources allow LINK to model habitat over a much larger area than its vector based ancestors.
Jenness Enterprises has created many extensions for ArcView 3.3 useful to ecological applications. Jeff Jenness created the CorridorDesigner ArcMap extension.
Hawth's Analysis Tools is an extension for ArcGIS (specifically ArcMap). It is designed to perform spatial analysis and functions that cannot be conveniently accomplished with out-of-the-box ArcGIS. Most of these analysis tools have been written within the context of ecological applications such as movement analysis, resource selection, predator prey interactions and trophic cascades.

New Trends in Monitoring Tigers

The other day I read a very interesting  paper “Monitoring tigers with confidence” authored by Matthew LINKIE,Gurutzeta GUILLERA-ARROITA,Joseph SMITH, and D. Mark RAYAN.
The paper gave me insights in to the latest trends in tiger monitoring. With the tiger population on the decline, conservationists urgently need to know whether or not the management strategies currently being employed are effectively protecting these tigers. This knowledge depends on the ability to reliably monitor tiger populations.

2 seminal methodologies, camera traps and occupancy surveys have enabled the monitoring of tiger populations with greater confidence. The paper discusses in detail these two methodologies.

The authors say only 2 published camera trap studies have gone beyond single baseline assessments and actually monitored population trends. .For low density tiger populations obtaining sufficient precision, from camera trapping remain a challenge. This is because of insufficient detection probabilities and/orsample sizes. Occupancy surveys have overcome this problem by redefining the sampling unit. They go for grid cells and not individual tigers.

Use of genetic information for identifying and monitoring tigers opens up exciting possibilities. The impact of the different threats to tiger populations and their response to varying management intervention is made much more feasible with the adoption of these complementary studies.

The authors say for most priority tiger conservation areas, tiger population trend data and associated threat and environmental correlates remain unknown. They wind up the paper with the following sentence” Thus, the repeated implementation of the rigorous approaches described in this paper are essential to demonstrate to protected area managers, donors and policy-makers alike those strategies that work and, just as importantly, those that do not work, so that systematic evaluations can be made for improved management of tiger and other endangered species in the wild (Sutherland et al. 2004).”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Here Comes Natural Pest Control of Coffee Berry Borer

Here is something that is sure to enthuse coffee growers.

Coffee berry borer is a big threat for coffee growers. It is the most widespread coffee pest in coffee producing countries.  The female coffee borer drills galleries into the coffee berries where she deposits her eggs. The larvae then feed on the coffee berries.  The losses are enormous. Yearly coffee losses are pegged at US $500 million.

Now, Dr. Juliana Jaramillo from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya, Dr. Eric Chapman from the University of Kentucky, and colleagues have come up with a biological control of the pest.  They have identified a previously unknown predatory thrips (Karnyothrips flavipes ). These thrips feed on the eggs and larvae of the coffee berry borer Hypothenemus hampei.

The researchers believe that their findings provide coffee growers and coffee scientists with new insights into a biological control agent that could be conserved and augmented in coffee growing regions.

Details of the research appear in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Unfulfilled Dream of Ratan Tata – A Post Script

Again we are veering a wee bit from wildlife. A few days back we had published a blog post, titled " The Unfulfilled Dream of Ratan Tata". We had extolled the virtues of the Tatas, highlighting their social commitment. Lot of water has flowed down the bridge since then. Fast paced developments involving 2G has surfaced and allegations have flown thick and fast.


The 2G 'tapegate' has rocked the nation questioning the very sincerity of Tata business house. The transcripts of Radia's conversations, with politicians, industrialists and journalists, published by Outlook have taken a heavy toll of the credibility of lot of people.  A central government-ordered inquiry into the Radia tapes is in full swing.


We still hold Tata in great esteem. We feel that the social commitment of Tatas is unparalleled. What Ambanis and other corporate houses have done for the society pale in to insignificance when compared to what the Tatas have done.


While extolling the virtues of Tatas, we feel that the Supreme Court petition filed by Ratan Tata asking the question whether the publication of the Radia tapes aren't a violation of privacy rights, was a bad ploy. His comments of India becoming a banana republic are also uncalled for. These two events have left a bad taste in the mouth of lot of people.


What Ratanji should have done was to acknowledge the mistake. To err is human. He should have said sorry and vowed never to repeat these mistakes. His stock would have gone up in the minds of the people of India.


I have interacted with Ratan Tata on his first visit to Munnar. We had only shook hands and exchanged couple of sentences, but what struck me was the humility of the great man. I was bowled over by the unassuming manner of Ratanji.


Ratanji may have overstepped the boundary in the mad rat race of survival in the corporate world, at the behest of his advisors. It is quite pardonable against the backdrop of what he has done for the society. At the same time there was no need for him to hide behind the cloak of Supreme Court petition. He has some bad advisors around him. It is quite possible that there is a Trojan horse lurking somewhere.


We wish Ratanji all the best. We are sure that he will come out of this difficult time unscathed.