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WWF-India Pioneer in Biodiversity Conservation Planning Using GIS

Dr. A Sirish Ravan
Email: [email protected] ernet.in

The WWF-India has been working to promote harmony between mankind and nature for over 25 years now. Today it is recognised as a premier NGO in the country dealing with conservation and development issues. With the full support of the Government of India, the Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre (IGCMC) has been established as a major national facility by WWF-India. The aim of the Centre is to support conservation and sustainable development by providing information to government agencies and NGO’s thereby assisting in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Estimating Vegetation of Palamau Tiger Reserve Using satellite Remote Sensing
The baseline data on the forest cover density and forest types occurring in the Palamau Tiger Reserve was prepared by IGCMC in 1995 through visual interpretation of remotely sensed satellite data (IRS LISS II), sample field surveys and ground truthing. The baseline details on 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 scale include information on the following aspects:

  • Vegetation cover and Type:
  • Topography and drainage;
  • Location of villages and towns; and,
  • Major infrastructural facilities.

Application of GIS and RS Techniques

A biogeographically representative and effectively managed network of protected areas is an important means of ensuring biodiversity conservation in the country. In the face of pronounced on-going degradation of natural ecosystems, there has been a conscious and steady effort towards enhancing the protected area coverage. However, much remains to be done to assess the physical and ecological condition of these areas. By utilising remotely sensed data and GIS techniques, it is possible to evaluate such conditions and to help eco-development plans for these areas. Such diagnostic studies to identify the frailites of these areas are, thus, of utmost importance to support measures for bringing about improvements through developmental activities. It is therefore, intended to develop Geographic information systems for the protected areas in the country so that the requisite spatial information becomes available to resource managers and planners . Similar work is planned for wetlands, degraded forests and other important ecosystems. Adequate hardware and software facilities are being set up in the Centre to take up the above mentioned activities. Development of GIS databases for ten protected areas (Pas) in the country has already been taken up. These databases will provide useful inputs for effective eco-development and management planning. The selected Pas, are: Buxa Tiger Reserve (TR), Nagarahole NP, Gir NP, Great Himalayan NP, Kalakad Mundanthural TR, Palamau TR, Pench TR Periyan TR, Ranthambhore TR and Similipai TR.

The IGCMC has the following functional objectives

  • To provide reliable, up-to-date information for natural resources decisions.
  • To build databases on indicators of conservation status of species, ecosystems and biodiversity
  • To support international conventions on wild life conservation through data management and analysis.
  • To build data management capcity.
  • To provide information for Environmental Impact Assessment Studies.
  • To disseminate data widely through books, maps and electronic media.

Mapping the Distribution of Endangered Plant Species
Endagered species are those which are in danger of extinction and whose survival is unlikely if the causal factor continue operating. Though the lists of such species are available however, the spatial distribution of such species is not available, which is a significant gap area since for planning conservation measures on scientific basis, the spatial location and spread of the species along with other relevant prameters are essential pre-requisites. IGCMC is preparing maps to depict the distribution data to endangered plant species in the country by using Arc/Info. It is proposed to use species distribution data to assess conservation threats at landscape regional scale using other spatial data such as forest cover, population pressure, contiguity of the forest cover, legal status of the forest area etc.

The strategies to achieve the above objectives are:

  • To build an environmental information service.
  • To identify and fill information gaps.
  • To improve accessibility; move towards realising online networks.
  • To develop bibloographic services.
  • To develop regional geographical linkages.
  • To build information presently managed by WWWF-India.
  • To develop research and assessment capabilities.

    Tiger distribution in India
    In order to conserve the tiger, global conservation efforts need to focus sharply on the population of the tigers in India, because India has over one half of the world’s tiger population. One of the basic requirements for doing this is to have a good distribution map of the tigers in the wild. IGCMC has worked on this aspect and has produced a ‘Tiger Distribution Map’. The map portrays the Tiger Reserves in which the major tiger population is concentrated, and the district-wise population of tigers. The Arc/Info database developed by IGCMC in 1996 from which the present map has been produced includes the following spatial and non-spatial data elements. FIGURE1
    WWF Global Website
    WWF has recently created a massive web site, where one can spend the whole day in collecting useful information. The home page whets the appetite with attractive pointers to climate change, endangered spicies and forests for life. One can pick up a fact sheet on

    dolphins and toropises, read the tip of the day and a lengthy but balanced report on how global warming is affecting bird migration . Best is the field section which can take you to anywhere WWF operates. In Russia, you not only obtain details of conservation compaigns, but also a well written environmental overview of the country as a whole. Depending on the hardware, one can watch weekly video reports from the BBC, Head straight to . This website also includes activities of IGCMC.

    • Political map of India including state and district boundaries;
    • Location of all protected areas, including tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries
    • Biogeographic classification of India.
    • Location of important towns; and,
    • Non spatial data, such as the tiger population.

    The Tiger Distribution Map developed by IGCMC is one of the primary inputs used by WWF-India for preparing the ‘Tiger Conservation Strategy and Action Plan’, which has since been published as a policy document of the organisation.

    Databases On Protected Areas Boundaries of India
    digitized maps of 470 protected areas (PA) of entire India has been prepared in 1:1000000 scale. This scale used will allow to depict the Pas with area more than 50 sq. m. This work was carried out using state of the art GIS technology with the help of Arc/Info software. This information will be useful in PA network planning programme and storing attribute data related to PAs management and monitoring biodiversity. These maps will further be utilized in conjunction with other database such as forest density / types, biogeographic zones, agro-ecological zones, political boundaries of India for inventorying details of each PA.

    Baseline database protected areas
    Baseline database on protected areas namely Gir national park, Ranthombore Tiger reserve, Kalakad TR, Nagarhole TR, Palamau TR, Rajiv Gandhi NP, Pench TR, and Great Himalayan NP is being prepared in ARC/INFO GIS. The baseline details on 1:50000 and 1:250000 scale include information on four aspects mentioned below.

    • Vegetation cover and type
    • Topographic and drainage details
    • Location of villages and towns
    • Major infrastructural facilities.

    Forest Cover Mapping of India
    Preparation of GIS database on forest cover of India on 1:2,50,000 scale. Six hundred maps of forest cover are being digitised using workstation Arc/Info. Source maps are collected from forest survey of India, which shows major categories mentioned below:

    • Dense forest (more than 40% crown cover density)
    • Open forest (10-40% crown cover density)
    • Mangrove forest scrub
    • Tree farm land
    • Tea gardens
    • Water bodies
    • Agriculture and near forest area

    It will be available in Arc/Info coverage format for biodiversity conservation and prioritisation projects.