Development of a spatial database for Natural Resource Assessment and Management in...

Development of a spatial database for Natural Resource Assessment and Management in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra

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Yogesh Dubey & V.B. Mathur
Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun

The overarching aim of development of spatial database of Tadoba – Andhari Tiger Reserve was to ensure the long-term conservation of its floral and faunal diversity along with other natural resources occurring within the reserve. This paper seeks to demonstrate the usefulness of GIS technology in conjunction with Remote Sensing for resource mapping and its management for enhancing management decision-making capabilities.

Databases are an important way of organizing and analyzing large amount of information. Computers are quite powerful tools which facilitate the decision making process. Natural resource planners require information on geophysical attributes, socio economic aspects of land use in and around protected areas and the animal/plant communities. The most pressing problem faced by the management is the lack of reliable information, lack of funds and insufficient staff to process whatever information is available (Yonzon et al, 1991). For effective planning and in order to overcome these problems, tools are required for analyzing and updating spatial information quickly and efficiently.

In this study a total of 48 themes depicting the availability, distribution and extent/abundance of physical and ecological attributes of the study area were derived using GIS technology. The various thematic data layers generated through this study provide valuable assistance in the assessment, management and monitoring of PA resources.

Methods
The methodology mainly involved the input of spatial data concerning various map layers and associated attribute data. Attribute data was analyzed along with spatial data layers to produce result oriented derived thematic maps. The main sources of spatial data were the Survey of India (SOI), 1:50,000 toposheets, satellite imagery (IRS IB, LISS-II, 1994) geocoded False Colour Composites, Global Positioning System (GPS) data, field data collected during study period and ancillary data taken from forest department records.

Results and Discussion
Forest Resource MappingSpace borne techniques are now widely used in vegetation mapping and distribution. A total of fifteen vegetation types were delineated from the satellite image (IRS IB LISS II,1994). Vegetation mapping was done at 1:50,000 scale (Plate 1). The forest cover was mapped based on the tonal and textural patterns obtained from satellite image. Important resources like grasslands which play an important role in providing forage for wild ungulates were also mapped using remote sensing data.

Animal Distribution & Abundance Animals form a major resource for management in protected area management system. Since the main thrust of protected area management is on managing the animal populations it becomes important to know how the animal populations are distributed in landscape in relation to vegetation communities. Apart from direct sightings data was collected through indirect evidences such as scats, kills, pugmarks, scrape signs and claw marks. This helped in generating a spatial distribution pattern of these two species of large cats in the study area (Plate 2).

Spatial Database & Resource Mapping Administrative maps showing different compartments, beats, round and ranges were produced from maps provided by forest department. These maps were rectified using Survey of India (SOI) maps of the area. Areas falling under reserve forest, protected forest and non-forest enclaves were delineated from satellite image. Topographic maps were prepared using SOI map and were then digitized.

Water Resources Primary, secondary and tertiary drainage network was derived from existing SOI maps. Drainage maps can be very useful in planning soil and moisture conservation works, which are carried out in most of the National Parks and Sanctuaries. Water sources are an important asset in any dry deciduous ecosystem. Animals move large distances in search of water in lean season and are forced to move to the regions with open water areas. It is therefore important for management to have a clear picture of water availability in the protected area so that animals can be prevented from moving outside the PA boundary, where they become prone to poaching and other threats. Water resource management is therefore a priority work in dry seasons in most of the protected areas. To map the distribution of water in the reserve initially all artificial water holes were mapped using a Global Positioning System (GPS). Subsequently, compartment wise survey was done so as to cover all compartments of TATR and data on water availability was collected for two years i.e., from January 1996 to December 1997. This data was spatially analyzed to generate the water scarcity map.

Unique Habitats Unique habitats comprising of caves, cliffs, talus and culverts were monitored for their use by different animal species. All these features were mapped using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. Results suggest that these habitat features are used by a wide range of animals (Dubey, 1999). Bats and sloth bear were the most frequent user of caves. Tiger used caves only in summers, which could be because of the fact that inside the caves the temperatures was lower by 20 – 25° C compared to outside. Culverts were used mainly by tiger and sloth bear. Tiger used culverts throughout the year with an increased use in summer. Culverts were used by a wide group of animals and in all 734 animal tracks were recorded in culverts. These habitat features form an excellent resting and breeding site for different group of species (Table 1). It is quite evident that the unique habitats perform important functions for a wide range of animals and animal groups. Results indicate that they provide diversity to the environment, which is otherwise dominated by vegetation communities. Though small in extent these features constitute important microhabitats. This is perhaps for the first time that systematic observations have been made on the unique habitats. Special care needs to taken regarding these features. Tourism should be discouraged in such areas. Any habitat modification around such habitats should also be avoided.

Conclusions
This study has provided extensive datasets on ungulate population structure, distribution, abundance and habitat utilization patterns, which provide a scientific basis for management of these species and their habitats. The very comprehensive spatial database in GIS domain created by this study would assist the management in informed decision making and monitoring of various resources.

The study has successfully demonstrated the utility of remote sensing used in conjunction with the GIS technology for mapping and management of natural resources. It is suggested that similar studies be carried out in other PAs so that comprehensive information on PA resources can be generated and used in their management (Mathur, 1991; Pabla, 1998).

References

  • Dubey, Y. (1999). Application of Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing in Assessing Habitat, Resource Availability and its Management in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. Ph.D. thesis, Submitted to FRI Deemed University, Dehradun, India.
  • Mathur, V.B. (1991).The ecological interaction between habitat composition, habitat quality and abundance of some wild ungulates in India. D.Phil. thesis. University of Oxford, United Kingdom. 279 Pp.
  • Pabla. H.S. (1998). Development of a user-friendly wildlife monitoring methodology for protected areas in India, Ph.D thesis, Forest Research Institute (Deemed Univ.) Pp.196.
  • Yonzon et al. (1991). Geographic Information System for assessing habitat and estimating population of red pandas in Langthang National park, Nepal Ambio. Vol. 20, No. 7, 285-288pp.