ERRC has initiated a new R&D project, Assessment of carbon storage and floral diversity of sacred groves in three districts of Southern Kerala supported by technology assisted information management (funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Govt. of India) in association with the Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K), Thiruvananthapuram. The project intends to estimate carbon storage value and floral diversity of sacred groves in Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts of Kerala together with assessment and mapping of their spatial distribution in GIS format.
In the growing scenario of climatic change concerns, phyto-sequestration of atmospheric carbon through the process of photosynthesis and its storage in the biomass and soil gains significance in the assessment of ecological services by forest systems and other vegetated landscapes. The conventional understanding of forests relates to a continuous stretch of terrestrial biomass formed mainly of trees associated with other smaller vegetation elements of bushes, lianas and herbs, while there occurs discontinuous tree dominated formations outside the officially defined forests, including sacred landscapes. The sacred groves of Kerala form a vital landscape unit of relic forest patches traditionally protected by communities for centuries by the strength of religious beliefs. They are hotspots of native biodiversity and conserve a variety of species that are otherwise threatened to extinction, while serving as spiritual retreats and linking man to his ecological heritage. These traditionally protected relic forest patches are under the threat of degradation and disappearance, mainly due to land alteration.
The present project will generate scientific information for future interventions and management of these serene landscapes. The research results on carbon storage, floral diversity and other ecological attributes of the sacred groves of the region will be disseminated through Web GIS application, development and dissemination of Educational and Awareness Content (both print and multimedia), and conduct of awareness campaign. Further, development of appropriate computational models to establish the inter-relationship of the species composition of sacred groves and the micro level agro-ecological features will be attempted.