CEPF's investment in the hotspot focused on the Western Ghats. The remaining natural ecosystems of this mountain range are subject to a number of threats that vary widely in the nature and intensity of their impacts on biodiversity. They include:
Livestock grazing within and bordering protected areas by high densities of livestock (cattle and goats) is a serious problem because it causes habitat degradation. Growth in livestock densities often accompany human population growth, resulting in serious conflicts between villagers and forest department officials.
Illegal local hunting driven by tradition or demand for wild meat is pervasive across the Western Ghats. Hunters employ guns as well as a wide array of traditional methods such as poisoning, snaring and trapping. Wild meat is a nonessential part of the diet of hunters who frequently have access to alternative sources of animal protein.
Given that the Western Ghats exist within an intensely human-dominated landscape, human-wildlife conflicts are common. Very high human population densities in several parts of the hotspot further exacerbate the intensity of conflict. For example, villagers living close to Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in the state of Karnataka, lose approximately 11 percent of their annual grain production to raiding elephants every year. Marauding leopards and tigers annually devour some 12 percent of their livestock holdings. Compensation schemes are often inefficient and largely fail to achieve their objectives of alleviating livestock and crop losses.
Extraction of forest products
Human communities living within and adjacent to protected areas in the Western Ghats hotspot are frequently dependent on the extraction of non-timber forest products (NTFP) to meet a diversity of subsistence and commercial needs. For example, in the state of Karnataka, out of the 310 NTFP species extracted for various purposes, 40 are collected for regional and global markets and 110 are collected for consumption. Sustainability of NTFP extraction in the wake of expanding human populations and changing consumption patterns are critical issues.
Fuelwood and fodder extraction
The extraction of fuelwood and fodder constitutes a significant and pervasive consumptive use within the Western Ghats. Overall, extraction of wood from both live and dead plants represents a serious threat negatively affecting canopy gaps, regeneration (lower fruit and seed production), stand density, basal area and population structure. Extraction also results in the local extinction of overharvested, preferred species. There is significant habitat degradation for the first several hundred meters into most forest fragments in the Western Ghats.
Agroforestry systems in the Western Ghats are today dominated by tea, coffee, rubber and monocultures of various species, including the recently introduced oil palm. Large-scale planting of coffee in the Western Ghats began in 1854 when the British established themselves in Kodagu. Over the years, plantations of cash crops have displaced extensive patches of natural forests throughout the Western Ghats and are frequently associated with encroachment of surrounding forest areas. Plantations owned by private individuals and corporate sector continue to grow in the Western Ghats and constitute an important source of fragmentation of natural habitat within the hotspot. With ecological restoration and other appropriate interventions, they could becomepotentially important corridor areas for certain wildlife species.
Read more about these and other threats in our ecosystem profile (PDF - 1.9 MB).