J S Chauhan
Articles written in Journal of Earth System Science
Volume 124 Issue 7 October 2015 pp 1389-1398
Grassland ecosystem is critical for survival of herbivores and plays an important role in conservation and management of wildlife. These habitats are widely studied for various issues, including biodiversity, biomass assessment, carrying capacity, etc. Woody species ingression in grasslands is one such important aspect that needs critical attention in protected area as this leads to shrinking of grasslands habitat. This study presents a case of Ronda grassland in Kanha National Park – a well-known protected area in India, known for its herbivore diversity and hard-ground Barasingha (Rucervus duvaceli branderi), in particular. Long-term satellite observation for five decades was carried out to understand spatio-temporal changes. Declassified Corona satellite data, aerial photographs along with satellite datasets in the subsequent period were utilised for this study. The study revealed that 88 ha (16% of Ronda and surrounding) have been ingressed during 1962–2011, in and around Ronda grassland of Kanha National Park. Rates of ingression on linear transects were found to be 60–120 m per decade. Field studies and NDVI analysis along the edge of grassland pixels as well as inside region using 1972 as baseline data, indicated woody vegetation replacing area of grassland. It was noted that Butea monosperma is invading more than other species in Ronda grassland, particularly along the stream where moisture availability is higher. Grassland habitats in Kanha are thus shrinking and thus leading to reduction in the area available for herbivore population which has increased in recent years. This can lead to severe impact on carrying capacity of these grasslands.