Social and ecological outcomes of tropical dry forest restoration through invasive species removal in central India

Choksi, Pooja Mukesh; Kotian, Mayuri; Burivalova, Zuzana; DeFries, Ruth S.

Tropical dry forests (TDFs) support endemic biodiversity, and the livelihoods of millions of people globally. Invasive species, such as Lantana camara, are a predominant cause of degradation of TDFs. We examined lesser-studied vocalizing fauna and social outcomes of TDF restoration through Lantana removal, focusing on a Central Indian TDF. We quantified biodiversity using acoustics in 55 locations in restored, unrestored, and Low Lantana Density (LLD) forest sites and surveyed 656 households across villages adjacent to these forest sites. Our ecological analysis showed that in comparison to unrestored and LLD sites, restoration was not significantly associated with a different acoustic space occupancy (ASO) in higher frequencies (9–24 kHz) during night time hours, meaning restoration does not impact nocturnal vocalising or stridulating species. However, restored and LLD sites had significantly lower ASO in the day time hours, potentially due to differences in the insect community when Lantana is absent. Through the household surveys, we found that the highest number of respondents across all the three types of sites valued the cash payment they received for participating in restoration efforts. Perceptions of lower amounts of crop raiding by wild ungulates were associated by villagers with a restored site. This perception was mediated by the total number of households in a village with a restored site. Focusing restoration efforts on forests surrounding villages, restoration planners could reduce potential negative human-wildlife interactions. Combining ecological and social outcomes, we found that there are immediate positive outcomes of restoration for people. However, in the short term (three years following restoration), there was no significant biodiversity ‘benefit’. Based on our results, we recommend that restoration planners (1) consult local people about their perception of forest degradation and restoration because people’s perceptions can accurately mirror the condition of the forest; (2) provide a cash income for participating in restoration activities and (3) anticipate potential changes in the faunal species community in the short term when large scale invasive species removal takes place.

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Ecological Indicators

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Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Published Here
March 28, 2024