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Ecology and management of sacred groves in Kerala, India

Ecology and management of sacred groves in Kerala, India

Forest Ecology & Management 112(1-2): 165-177

In Kerala, based on management systems, sacred groves can be categorized into three groups namely those managed by individual families, by groups of families and by the statutory agencies for temple management (Devaswom Board). Ollur Kavu, S.N. Puram Kavu and Iringole Kavu which represent above mentioned management systems, respectively, were studied for their tree species composition and vegetation structure. The study was also designed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of present management systems and role of different stakeholder groups in conserving the sacred groves. Of the three sacred groves, the one managed by individual family (Ollur Kavu) is highly disturbed as indicated by low stem density of mature trees (367 ha-1) and poor regeneration potential with the ratio between mature trees and saplings is 1:0.4. In order to quantify the level of disturbance in these sacred groves, Ramakrishnan index of stand quality (RISQ) was calculated. The values obtained for all the three tree layers (i.e., mature trees, saplings and seedlings) in single family managed sacred grove (Ollur Kavu) was between 2.265 and 2.73 1, an indicator of the dominance of light demanding, species in the population, suggested that the grove is highly disturbed one. Whereas, other two sacred groves are less disturbed as indicated by lower 'RISQ' values (between 1.319 and 1.648). Iringole Kavu and S.N. Puram Kavu were compared with some other evergreen forests of the Western Ghats of India for the parameters like stem density, basal area and species diversity of trees (gbh> 10.1 cm). Values obtained for these parameters in the two sacred groves are within the range obtained for other forests. Stakeholder importance value index (SIVI) was calculated based on the attributes like the proximity of the stakeholder to the sacred grove, contribution of stakeholders in managing the sacred grove, benefits being enjoyed by the stakeholder due to involvement with sacred grove and attitude of the stakeholder group towards the conservation and management of sacred grove. This indicated that local people, temple trust and/or sacred grove owners are the major stakeholders, while in general some other stakeholder groups such as youth clubs, schools, forest department, municipality and local Panchayat with lower SIVI are comparatively neutral in conserving and managing the groves. Some of the major strategies to be adopted are self-imposed complete ban on the removal of biomass for the revitalization of ecosystem, creation of awareness among local people and all stakeholder groups, identification of the type of contribution a stakeholder group can offer in managing the sacred grove and encouragement of all stakeholders to participate without either directly or indirectly adversely affecting the ecosystem as well as the wisdom and interest of the major stakeholder groups.

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Accession: 003102334

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DOI: 10.1016/s0378-1127(98)00326-0

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