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Ecosystem Profile: Western Ghats & Sri Lanka
A unique feature of the Western Ghats is the extraordinarily high level of biodiversity confined within a relatively small land area. This biodiversity coexists with an unusually high density of human population, a significant percentage of which has great reverence for nature. The presence of fledgling civil society organizations, strong human capital and deep reverence for nature in the region provide an unprecedented opportunity for CEPF to strengthen conservation efforts in the hotspot.
Analyses of conservation outcomes reveal the presence of 332 globally threatened species and thousands of endemic species. Populations of many of these species extend beyond protected areas that themselves contain high concentrations of biodiversity. Although these landscapes are highly fragmented, the potential for connectivity exists.
The rich biological diversity of the region is under considerable thereat. Expanding human populations, poor governance and a host of macro-economic development policies contribute to degradation. Proximate threats include extraction of forest products, poaching, mining, pollution, invasive species, inadequate enforcement of existing conservation laws, and absence of involvement of local communities in conservation efforts. Consequently, unless conservation efforts are strengthened, biodiversity of the region is likely to degrade further.
Current investments in conservation by government agencies suffer from heavy emphasis on infrastructure, inability to evaluate and monitor conservation effectiveness of investments and lack of support from civil society. Huge government investments have not been able to curtail losses of biodiversity. A new approach that facilitates partnerships between government and civil society organizations is required. The presence of a range of diverse and dynamic civil society organizations that include NGOs, universities and research institutions in the Western Ghats offers an unprecedented opportunity for CEPF to strengthen the recent entry of these organizations into the conservation.
The niche of CEPF in the Western Ghats should be to effectively conserve biodiversity-rich areas within and outside existing protected areas by mitigating threats to globally threatened species and their habitats by enhancing connectivity and strengthening civil society involvement in conservation efforts. CEPF investments should be directed toward efforts that would: a) create new partnerships to improve in-situ biodiversity conservation, primarily through enhancing connectivity of habitats and implementation of scientific management of sites; b) bolster the capacity and resolve of government and civil society organizations to conserve biodiversity; and c) generate and apply knowledge of the distribution and status of key biodiversity parameters to facilitate systematic conservation planning and conserve globally threatened species.
The strategic directions and investment priorities outlined in this profile seek to capitalize on the tremendous human resource base in the region that is the key to sustained efforts. Human capital in the Western Ghats is huge and extraordinarily well equipped, in terms of education and motivation, to undertake conservation enterprises. CEPF investments will strengthen the fledgling participation of civil society in biodiversity conservation and provide resources to a range of organizations that seek to catalyze change and undertake innovative and effective approaches to conservation of the unique biotic endowment of the region.
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