The floral diversity improvement plan for
Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary project
Ecological Society, Pune. India.
A. Report of the project in Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary project
2. Objectives of the project
4. The study region
5. Observations – flora and habitat
6. Observations – Geological, Hydrogeological and Geomorphological conditions
7. Observations – Water availability and human interactions
B. Report on use of Aqueduct, the GFW water tool
The Ecological Society Pune, wishes to thank Global Forest Watch Small Grants Program for the
generous support extended towards this project.
Additionally, the team would like to express its sincere gratitude to the team at Maharashtra
State Forest Department for their continuous support. Special thanks are due to Sunil Limaye,
Chief Conservator of Forests, Maharashtra Forest Department, Mr. Nagose, In Charge of MWLS;
Ms. Kombde, Vanrakshak and the office bearers of Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary office.
Dr. Swati Gole, Chairman of Ecological Society
Dr. Gurudas Nulkar
B/2 Jayanti Apartments,
Near Ratna Hospital, Senapati Bapat Road,
©Ecological Society, 2016
Report of the project in Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary project
(funded by the GFW Small Grants Fund)
Authors – Dr. Swati Gole, Revati Gindi, Dr. Gurudas Nulkar, Trupti Satpute.
The Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (MWLS) is an increasingly popular wildlife destination within
easy reach of Pune and Mumbai cities. Located in the Pune district of Maharashtra state, 72 km
southeast of the city of Pune, the sanctuary is home to mammals like Chinkara Gazelia bennetti,
Indian grey wolf Canis lupus, Hyaena Hyaena hyaena and Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis, besides
a variety of insects, birds and reptiles. The sanctuary was specially developed for the Chinkara
(Ben C. , 2010) as they have been known to feed on Acacia leaves and some grasses (Sharma,
1977) (Ghosh, Goyal, & HC, 1987). It is surrounded by villages on three sides and the town of Supe
on one side. The villages have huge populations of sheep and goat and depend on MWLS for their
food. Consequently, the scrub forests in the sanctuary are in a highly-degraded state due to
excessive grazing and poor water availability. There is an increasing demand on the water bodies
within the sanctuary and the villages and Due to the low rainfall, there is an increasing gap
between water demanded by agriculture and households and the supplies.
The sanctuary lies in a low rainfall region of the Deccan plateau which bestows a tropical dry
deciduous character. It is thus described as scrub land interspersed with grasses and trees. The
dominant flora comprises of species like Khair Acacia catechu, Hivar Acacia sp. Sisoo Dalbergia
latifolia, Chandan Santalum album, Ber Ziziphus mauritiana and several types of grasses. The
forest department has undertaken several plantations of trees and grasses, which have fared well
in the conditions (Ben, Kulkarni, & Bhagat, 2014).
While several studies on the fauna and flora within the sanctuary are available, studies focusing
on the water situation are sparse. The state of biodiversity within the MWLS is a result of degraded
physical conditions, low water availability and anthropogenic activities; and therefore, we felt it
important to study these aspects in the MWLS.
2. Objectives of the project
This study, funded by the Small Grants Fund of the Global Forest Watch, was undertaken with a
(i) To study the water availability and the water demand in and around the MWLS
(ii) Identify potential recharge and discharge areas and suggest potential ecological
measures for improvement
(iii) Document the flora and make recommendations for improvement.
In the course of the study, the GFW Water Tool was accessed by the team to understand its
utility for such projects. The flora plan document will be submitted to the Maharashtra State
Forest Department. The plan itself is not being executed within the scope of this project.
A team comprising a project coordinator, one botanist, two interns and independent experts was
formed to work on this project. Various research publications were referred before forming plan
to study the sanctuary (Annexure 1). For collecting data from the site, three visits were made to
the sanctuary and its surrounding villages in the months of June, July (monsoon months) and
October. During these visits the team undertook the following activities:
i. Discussions and interviews conducted with forest department officials in the sanctuary
office. Visit to the Interpretation center of the forest department.
ii. Marking out the MWLS boundaries, water bodies, points of interest and specific habitats.
This was done using Motion-X GPS in were marked. Polygons for flora sampling were also
marked. The three selected areas for flora sampling were (i) Near Wadhane pond (ii) Near
Dham pond (iii) Near hyena den.
iii. Documenting the flora in the sample polygons by quadrat method. Floral community
enumeration was undertaken using quadrats of 1 meter x 1 meter in the sampled study
iv. Documenting the demographics of three villages around the sanctuary. These villages use
the sanctuary for grazing their herds.
v. Estimating the water demand of the villages. This was done by conducting interviews with
villagers and village head (Sarpanch).
vi. Conducting a rapid hydrological investigation of the sanctuary with an expert.
After the field visits, a list of flora was prepared by habitat. This was considered important since
few areas have some level of protection from grazing and there is potential to improve the quality
of grasses and trees. Similarly, the water supply and water demand were estimated based on the
data collected from the three villages.
4. The study region
The Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary is situated between 180 20’ 11 N and 740 22’ 27 E at an
elevation 639 - 682 m above mean sea level to the southeast of Pune city in Baramati Taluka. The
sanctuary area is ~562 hectares and situated on a gentle sloping plateau. The main entrance of
the sanctuary is situated at 180 20’ 11 N and 740 22’ 27 E (Figure 1). The periphery is about 22
kilometers. At an altitude of about 640 meters above mean sea level, the sanctuary receives about
600mm of annual rainfall. MWLS does not have any human settlements inside, however, it is
surrounded by ten villages. Four villages are either bordering or close to the sanctuary. These are
Vadhane, Kutwalwadi, Padwii and Khorgaon. The town of Supe lies at the entrance of the
sanctuary and is larger than the surrounding villages. It has a weekly market and is well connected
to the Pune-Sholapur highway. The sanctuary attracts tourists from Pune on weekends. Tourists
can enter the sanctuary and use the two main roads going through it. The Bhima irrigation project,
also known as the Ujani dam, is about 45 kilometers from the sanctuary. One canal originating
from this project, brings water to the village of Padawi, which borders the sanctuary.
Figure 1: Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary site.
5. Observations – Flora and habitat
Based on the site visits and discussions with the forest officials, we have divided the sanctuary
into habitats. We noted five main types of habitats described below.
5.1 Plantation areas
Plantation is a key activity in the sanctuary for forest officials and covers significant area and
includes native and non-native species of flora. Some species which have dominance in the
plantations are Acacia Planifrons, Prosopis juliflora, Glyricidia and Neem. Some areas are planted
with naturally regenerated species like Acacia nilotica, Ziziphus mauritiana, Acacia catechu,
Balanites aegyptica and others. The older plantations show continuous canopy at few places while
a discontinuous canopy is seen with sparse
plantations. We observed ant hills in plantation
areas which indicate a relatively good soil layer. The
soil and water conservation measures support the
plantation activity and the other way around. The
incidence of mosses growing in some places
indicates this. In the undergrowth of the plantation
areas shrubs like Ziziphus and Lantana, climbers like
Cryptostagea grandiflora and Tinospora cordifolia are seen with seasonal herbaceous growth of
species like Leucas, Tribulas, Indigofera, Crotolaria and others. Some natural shrubby clusters
were also seen inter- mixed with the plantation supporting local flora and fauna.
5.2 Open Areas
The open areas are subjected to heavy soil erosion which has resulted in the soil layer being
completely stripped off. Very few patches of soil are observed in open areas. Consequently, the
sanctuary is characterized with very thin and sparsely distributed soil layers. The area is composed
mostly of pebbly flats and exposed rocky surfaces. The other land features in the open area
include depressions, shallow stream beds, rock crevices, boulder piles and exposed rocky surfaces
and form micro-habitats. However, even in these conditions we observed growth of sparsely
distributed trees, shrubs and herbs like Caralluma, Lantana, Leucas, Hibiscus, Achyranthes aspera
and others. Vegetation is very sparse in the open areas with occasional trees and shrubs grown
only in favorable physiographic conditions. We observed clusters of trees and shrubs which help
protection and germination of seeds. Special
mention should be made about Caralluma
adscendans var. fimbriation (Makadshingi) which is
characteristic of dry region vegetation. Herbaceous
growth in the open areas includes, Cyanotis
fasciculata Evolvulus alisinoides, Boerhavia diffusa,
Heliotropium and Indigofera cordifolia. The
peculiarity of the dry region is that the soil and
moisture retention at the base of the exposed rock
supports local grass, herbaceous vegetation and
small fauna. In MWLS we have similar observations. Leucas, Indigofera, Cleome, etc. were
observed at the rock bases. In the monsoon season, micro habitats like shallow depressions have
enough moisture to support growth of grasses and even wet grasses like Cyperus species and few
herbs. Despite conservation structures like contour bunding and gully plugging the soil arrested
behind these structures shows very thin layer of soil. This has only resulted in herbaceous growth
along with grasses and occasional sparse growth of shrubs like Senna auriculata, Zizibus
mauritiana. Herbaceous growth was dominated by Lucas, Cynotis, Indigifera cordifolia and
Cleome, along with grasses like Tragus, Dactolactenum and others. Rock crevices in open areas
provide unique niche to local flora and fauna. These rock crevices provide spaces for soil
deposition and moisture conservation forming micro habitats in monsoon supporting growth of
herbaceous species like Leucas, Tribulus, Indigofera, etc along with grasses. These are xerophytic
plants which sustain drought conditions using adaptations like succulence, spines, reduced leaf
surfaces. All over the open areas we observed dominance of seasonal and prostrate herbs.
Moreover, the tree growth was stunted.
There are two seasonal streams running through the sanctuary. The forest department has
initiated conservation measures which include earthen bunds, stone bunds and gully plugging.
Despite these measures there is hardly any incidence of soil accumulation. We did not observe
any riparian zone, but in some places found Babhul and Karanj trees, characteristic species of
riparian vegetation. However, they were observed only at the edge of the temporary reservoirs
formed by bunds. Occasionally on stream beds; rock piles support herbs like Indonseila
echinoides, etc. Leeward side of the bunds facilitated growth of herbs like Molugo pentaphylla,
Cyanotis fasciculata, Indigofera cordifolia, Alternanthera, Cyperus spp. etc. Farley abundant
growth of Tarwad, Leucas was seen along smaller gullies and gully plugs. Half-moon bunds and
small stone lines prevented soil erosion at various depressions.
5.4 Water Bodies
To increase the habitat diversity, groundwater recharge and supply water for local fauna, four
percolation tanks and some water holes have been made under the forest management plan. In
the dry periods, these percolation tanks and water
holes are filled by water tankers fetching water from
the nearby dam. Some reservoirs show a wetland
value and during monsoon, when water level is high,
we observed wetland plants like Marselia and
Hydrilla. The other three reservoirs were without
the wetland components as physical habitat is
absent. Weeds like Alternanthera grow on the edges
of the reservoir. All the water bodies attract fauna
and several birds and turtles were seen at a
reservoir. There are Fox and Hyena dens near the reservoir and Monitor Lizards around the third
one. They also provide water for the Chinkara herds.
5.5 Underground canal debris
In the last few years, there is work going on of installing a pipeline through the sanctuary area.
This pipe is being laid underground and forms a linear excavation within the sanctuary area. The
stone debris from the excavation makes a new
feature and a special habitat. Plants like Areva
lanata and Argemone Mexicana make an
appearance as pioneering species. Moreover, some
fauna too is associated with such a debris, e.g. birds
like larks and some rodents and reptiles like
monitor lizards, to which the debris provides an
Even under the extreme grazing pressures and the scant water availability, we found a large
diversity in the flora. The detailed flora list is seen in Annexure 1 and the species count is
summarized in Table 1 below.
Table 1 : Count of floral species in the sanctuary
Type or flora
6. Observations - Geological, Hydrogeological and Geomorphological conditions
The study area falls possibly under the Ambenali formation of the Wai sub-group of Sahyadri
Group of the Deccan Trap Volcanic Province (late Cretaceous to Paleogene in age) that erupted
copious amount of lava flows ~ 65 million years ago. Groundwater occurrence in hard basaltic
aquifers are along lava flow contact surface, sheeting & columnar joints, and along the junction
of weathered and impervious massive rock type; the general anatomy of lava flow and
groundwater occurrence is shown in figure 2 for understanding.
Figure 2 : General anatomy of a basalt flow (rubbly pahoehoe flow), rock types and groundwater occurrence.
The sanctuary is underlined by two major massive basaltic lava flow units (refer fig. 3). A third unit
outcrop is barely visible above 670 m. Majority of the site has a gentle to moderately gentle slope,
with majority of the surface drainage channels moving downslope in the south-east direction. The
groundwater flow also tends to follow the same direction as that of the surface drainage channels
moving through the shallow unconfined fractured aquifer.
Figure 3: (a) Inset map showing slope profile section line (marked as red line) to create elevation profile. (b) Illustration
showing a 2D cross-section of subsurface basaltic lava flow units and groundwater flow paths at the wildlife sanctuary.
The area receives moderate rainfall (~ 502 mm), but due to gentle slopes and fractured strata
underlying the site area, possibility for groundwater transmissivity and storage is comparatively
good. However, the storativity and transmissivity of basalts is usually low, and yields depend upon
presence of good jointing patterns (columnar, entablature, platy), flow contacts and rock type
(vesicular, amygdaloidal, inter-basaltic clay). The presence of joints and weathering profile does
provide occurrence of shallow aquifer system but not enough groundwater availability during lean
summer months. The observations made during this rapid field hydrogeological transect mapping
and in-situ water quality testing are as follows:
i. The upper rubbly pahoehoe basalt flow unit 2 is thick (total thickness – approx. 10 - 10.5
m) and is carpeted by a shallow weathered basalt (~1 – 1.5 m) that transitions into
massive fractured basalt showing crude columnar to horizontal jointing system. At the
base of the basalt flow unit spheroidal weathering was also observed. This basalt flow
unit acts as the shallow unconfined aquifer.
ii. The basalt flow unit 2 has been placed above another rubbly pahoehoe basalt flow unit 1
at approx. 650 m. The contact was observed outside the site along fresh road cut section.
Its thickness was not possible to be determined and so also the lower unclassified flows
iii. Most of the base flows were observed to re-emerge at the surface from fractured
unconfined aquifers along stream channels feeding the surface water storage structures.
iv. In-situ water quality tests were carried out to ascertain the difference of fresh surface
water from groundwater. Most of the surface water analysed (refer table 1) for pH,
electrical conductivity (Ec), salinity, and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) showed close affinity
to slightly fresh meteoric (rainfall) water (Samples 2, 3, 4 & 5). Whereas, sample 1 which
is situated at a lower elevation – 657 m compared to sample 2 – 659 m, showed signature
of its interaction with the subsurface rock type highlighted by higher Ec and TDS values.
v. Differences in water quality parameters of sample 1 and 2, which are at very close
intervals to each other indicate the ability of fractured basalt to recharge groundwater
vi. The fractured unconfined aquifer is located above 650 m acts as the recharge zone, while
base flows emerging along flow contact below 650 m is the discharge zone.
Table 2 : In-situ water quality parameters analyzed for surface water bodies present at the sanctuary.
18o20’49.87’’ N –
Indicative of interaction
with subsurface rock. Not
within desirable limits of IS
18o20’52.02’’ N –
Within permissible limits
of IS 10500-1991, 2012
18o20’50.52’’ N –
18o20’50.82’’ N –
18o21’01.18’’ N –
7. Observations – Water availability and human interactions
There are 4 villages surrounding the sanctuary. Kutalwadi lies to the east and depends on wells
and reservoir within the sanctuary, for its water requirement. The village has public water taps
which receive an hour’s water supply every day. Vadhane lies to the north-western boundary of
the sanctuary. This village too has public water taps and open wells. Additionally, the villagers use
water from the Vadhane reservoir within the sanctuary. Vadhane will get a water canal from
Varwandh dam by next year. Padawi is a larger
village which lies about 3 kilometers to the east of
the sanctuary. The village is supplied water by a
canal from the Ujani dam. Except for this village, the
water sources for the others dry up as summer
approaches and they are serviced by water tankers
in the dry months.
The main economic activities of the villages are
farming, sheep, goat and poultry rearing. Farming in
the villages of Vadhane, Kutalwadi and Khorgaon
comprises of Jowar, Bajra, Wheat, grams and some leafy vegetables like Methi and Coriander. The
produce is sold to traders in Supe and Pune. A family typically owns about 2 to 4 acres of farm
land. Very few families have larger land holdings. The Dhangars (pastorals) comprise of the largest
chunk of village population. Each Dhangar family owns about 50 to 100 sheep. The estimated
population of sheep and goats in the four villages is nearly 250,000. These animals consume water
and feed on grass within the sanctuary. This accounts for the largest pressure on the MWLS. The
village of Padawi gets its water from the canal and most farmers here grow sugarcane, onions and
pomegranates. They use flooding irrigation in the farms and less than 20% farms have drip
irrigation. Table 3 shows the demographics of the four villages.
Table 3: Village demographics
Open & bore wells,
Common tap for
village, Vadhane lake
Open and bore wells,
Common tap for
Water from Ujani
dam by canal, open
and bore wells
Open and bore
taps for village
Farming, sheep and
goat rearing, poultry
Farming, sheep and
Farming – water
Dhangars (shepherds), Marathas (mainly agrarian), Ramoshis, Kunbhis (marginal farmers
There are no marshes or wetlands in the sanctuary nor does any river pass through it. There are
six seasonal streams, a few springs, one percolation tank in Supe village forest and one cement
bandhara (a small dam) in the sanctuary. Additionally, there are two artificial saucer- type water
holes for the animals, which are filled by a water tanker every day. All other water sources are
rain fed and hence seasonal. There is one cement tank, built in 2011 and a borewell in the middle
of the sanctuary. The irrigation canal of JANAI – SHIRSAI passes through the sanctuary, from which
it will be mandatory to supply water to the wild animals. The sources of water for animals are
shown in Table 3.
Table 4 : Water sources in the sanctuary
Saswad Road quarry
All sources of water are artificially created by the department. Most of them retain water up to
the end of October after which they dry up by end of January. As observed earlier, the soil has a
poor water retention capacity.
These villages impose severe grazing pressure on the sanctuary. There is uncontrolled grazing
during monsoon from shepherd units from Kutwalwadi, Supe and Vadhane. Flocks of 500 to 1000
sheep and goats can be seen grazing here. The Dhangars (shepherds) are partly nomadic and
move out of these villages after about October. They head towards Konkan and Western
Maharashtra areas with their flocks in search of grazing pastures. Some of them stay back and
take up daily wage jobs.
Based on the observations made during the field visits and the discussions with villagers and forest
officials, we have made recommendations to improve the floral diversity. The Ecological Society
had undertaken a grassland restoration project at Vinchurni, southeast of Pune city over an eight
year period. Many of the recommendations being made here have been tried out with desired
results in Vinchurni experiment. The recommendations are shown diagrammatically in figure 4.
Figure 4: Recommendation Plan
A. Measures for protection
We recommend this to be the first and most important step towards conservation efforts.
We did not observe any clear demarcation of the sanctuary boundary. Therefore, we
recommend that the entire boundary be marked with posts or by fencing. The excessive
grazing within the sanctuary does not allow regeneration of important flora species. The
effects of grazing on the plant community and soils are well studied. They reduce the
ground cover and its productivity
while promoting soil erosion
(Firincioğlu, Seefeldt, & Sahin,
2007) (S.L., M.I., & F.A., 2012). In
extreme cases, it has resulted in
land desertification and severe
biodiversity losses (Zhang, Wang,
Zhao, Xie, & Zhang, 2005). On the
other hand, protection from
grazing has the capacity to improve
soil conditions, promote floral
growth and arrest soil erosion (Gill,
2007). Fencing to exclude grazers is one of the key management practices used to restore
vegetation and conserve biodiversity.
a. We recommend installation of fencing to some important areas within the sanctuary.
These areas should be given complete protection and should be treated as a control
plot. The following areas are recommended for full protection: (i) riparian vegetation
along the Streams 3 and 4 (ii) area around the Dham reservoir (see figure 5) (iii) the
recharge areas (see figure 7). Additionally, these areas must be monitored. There is a
small control patch next to the forest office. This patch is fully protected from grazing
and being next to the office, is under constant watch of the officials. This patch shows
good regeneration. The grasses here are up to 3 feet high and of good fodder value.
b. Patrolling in the areas where there is some riparian vegetation along the streams.
These areas already have a good diversity and must be protected completely from
grazing and other activities.
B. Measures for water conservation and recharge
We observed over extraction of water from wells in the surrounding villages and drying
up by end of January. Based on these observations and the rapid hydrogeological study,
we feel that the lack of ground cover and sparse vegetation around water bodies, a
significant portion of the annual rainfall that the sanctuary receives, is unable to reach
aquifers. For this, we recommend that the recharge capacity of the sanctuary must be
a. Based on the rapid hydrogeological survey, we have identified the recharge areas
within the sanctuary. These are depicted in figure 5.
b. Protecting riparian zones along the streams in a step wise process. This starts with
planting some varieties of grasses, followed by intensive protection from grazing.
c. Existing bore wells can be recharged through diversion canals and recharge pits to
enhance water availability for longer periods.
d. Out of the four artificially created water bodies, we observed wetland components in
one reservoir. For the others, the reservoir edges are very steep. We recommend the
Figure 5 : Sanctuary map with locations of water bodies and streams.
creation of gradual slopes for a shallow water zone. This will create small wetlands
e. The excavation debris of the percolation tanks are spread on open flat land. This
should be used for creating a series of bunds. The objective is to create undulating
f. The villages around the sanctuary extract groundwater for irrigation. Excessive use of
groundwater can impact the groundwater stored in unconfined fractured aquifers,
especially during drought periods. We recommend that the forest department works
closely with locals on regulation of deep wells and drilling borewells.
g. Employing efficient farm irrigation systems should be encouraged around the
sanctuary. There are subsidies available for drip irrigation, the villagers have not been
able to access any subsidy till today, as informed by the Sarpanch (head) of Vadhane
h. We observed slow re-emergence of base flows along the flow contact. This indicates
a recharge through fractured rock feeding waterholes which re-enters lower flow
units. Based on this, we recommend that the existing water harvesting structures be
desilted to improve recharge.
i. We recommend plantations of Agave in the areas with altitude between 645 to 655
m. This will reduce soil erosion and the existing watershed treatments can be revived
in the recharge areas to help recharge groundwater.
j. We observed roads obstructing stream flows. We recommend allowing streams to
follow their natural paths by placing pipes as a passage for water to flow under the
k. The water-holes within the sanctuary should be surrounded by canopy trees to
Figure 6 : Recharge and discharge area identified for the wildlife sanctuary.
C. Measures for soil conservation
The most striking feature of the sanctuary was that there is very poor soil cover in most
parts. For this reason, we have not recommended any tree plantation. However, for
improving the biodiversity, it is
imperative that the existing soil
cover be protected and measures
be taken to increase soil deposition
in some places (Lamb, Erskine, &
Parotta, 2005). The forest
department has already
undertaken several measures to
arrest soil flows, but they have not
delivered the expected results. We
feel that this is attributed to the
high grazing pressures which keeps
the soil open.
a. We found some trees uprooted due to high wind and thin soil. We recommend
leaving these trees untouched. This will stimulate ecosystem processes and arrest
soil flowing away with water.
b. We have already recommended plantation of Agave and Vetiver grass. This will
reduce soil erosion and improve the water recharge.
c. We observed some anthills in few areas. This clearly indicates a better soil layer
in very few parts of the sanctuary. These benefit the trees which in turn improves
the soil layer. Such places should be preserved completely.
D. Recommendations on Plantations
Planting native trees has been an accepted approach towards restoration of degraded
landscapes. They can potentially restore the functionality of the ecosystem services to
degraded land by increasing the number of trees in the landscape (Messinger, 2016).
However, trees require a deep ground substratum to support them. But in this sanctuary,
there is hardly any soil depth and substratum is rocky in many places. Moreover, there is
hardly any biomass addition happening. Due to these reasons, we do not recommend
plantations. Instead, we recommend the following measures:
a. The first step is to control the abundance of weeds and invasive species. For this,
we recommend two methods. The first is to periodically remove them from dense
areas and the second is by improving physical conditions of the habitat so that
native species can compete effectively. Several weeds are seen throughout the
sanctuary. Alternanthera, Parthenium and Besharam are amongst the abundant
ones. These species have been observed to dominate native flora and spread fast
in the conditions.
b. Leeside of the bunds should be used for dispersing seeds of good quality grasses.
The recommended list of grasses is given in table 5.
Table 5 : Recommended list of grasses for plantation
Recommended grasses for plantation
Scientific name (Local name)
Sehima sulcatum (Hack.) A.-Pavana
Apluda mutica L.-Tambat
Dichanthium annulatum (Marvel)
Sehima nervosum (Rottl.) Stapf.-Pavana/Shedya
c. Agricultural crop clusters can be introduced in the areas near streams with good
soil covers. This will be as additional source of food for wildlife.
d. We observed that floral species diversity is more in open areas than areas with
plantation. However, the species composition of this diversity indicates a
degraded habitat and not a good one.
e. Along the stream banks and reservoir edges plantation of characteristic riparian
zone species is recommended to improve the habitats in riparian zone.
E. Recommendations for habitat improvement
Increasing the diversity in habitats in a landscape has been suggested as a measure in
restoration of degraded landscapes (Amoros, 2001). Palmer (1994) has listed 120
published hypotheses formulated to explain coexistence or variation in species richness,
many of them involving physical relationships with the habitat. We emphasize the need
to create a diversity of habitats to improve the flora. At present the sanctuary has five
major habitats besides some unique microhabitats. Increasing this diversity will reflect in
a wider biodiversity.
a. Maintain existing riparian habitats of good ecological value. These are around the
streams and the place where hyena dens are preserved.
b. Microhabitats can be created using semicircular stone lines in the open lands with
pebbly flats and depressions. These will help in accumulation of soil and moisture
c. We recommend preserving the open areas without any plantation. Since the
sanctuary is in a low rainfall region, open areas make an important feature in the
landscape and add to the habitat diversity.
d. Simple measures of rock piles, crescent bunds and riffles can improve
e. We observed that the rubble and debris of the underground pipeline excavation
debris makes a unique habitat for certain species. This should be retained since
there are some special flora seen here.
The MWLS was given the status of a sanctuary in 1997, when its ecological significance was
realized by the Maharashtra state Forest department. However, the area has been subjected to
severe grazing since a very long time even before the status. This has resulted in a highly-degraded
landscape with poor growth and sparse soil cover. Due to these reasons the excellent efforts for
soil and water conservation, of the Forest Department, have failed to yield desired results. Our
major recommendation then, based on our grassland restoration experiment over eight years, is
that small plots within the sanctuary must be completely protected from any interference. Once
grasses take over here, there will be biomass addition to the soil and improvement in habitat for
other floral species to take over. This is clearly observed in the small control plot besides the
Forest department office, which shows an abundance of grasses and good growth even four
months after monsoon (see figure 7).
The MWLS has two major anthropogenic values to two separate groups of stakeholders. For urban
tourists, the sanctuary offers an
opportunity to observe Chinkaras
and other fauna in the wild; and to
the villagers around the sanctuary
the MWLS is a provider of their
fodder for their flocks. Each of these
values imposes pressures on the
other and therefore one must be
chosen over the other. Considering
the miniscule area left for wildlife in
India and the dwindling Chinkara
population, our recommendation is
on completely disallowing any
grazing within the sanctuary. Based
on the observations at the control plot near the forest office, this strategy is expected to result in
improved ground cover, helping conserve soil and adding the much-needed biomass to it. The
present soil cover and biomass availability is inadequate for trees and over the last few years,
there has been poor regeneration.
We see a compelling and urgent need to
improve the floral and habitat diversity
within the MWLS, which in turn has the
potential to improve the conditions for the
fauna. This would enhance the sanctuary’s
tourism value in the long run while
conserving the biodiversity.
With these recommendations, the forest
departments good work of last many years,
would be enhanced and would help
improve the biodiversity of the sanctuary.
Figure 7 : Fully protected plot near the Forest office
Figure 8 : The charismatic Indian Courser, a winter
visitor to the sanctuary
B. Report on use of Aqueduct, the GFW water tool
During the project, we accessed ‘Aqueduct’, the water tool of Global Forest Watch. We set the
custom area at 18.344090, 74.361614, which is at the main entrance of the MWLS. This showed
a watershed (figure 8) which this does not exactly coincide with the MWLS. While some portions
of the sanctuary overlap this area, a large part is farmland.
Our study region lies in the Bhima-Krishna watershed in the western part of peninsular India.
These rivers originate in the Western Ghats and drain to the east into the Indian Ocean. For the
analysis, we made use of the ‘Know your watershed’ and the ‘layers’ facilities. The ‘Potential forest
coverage’ showed the entire region to be capable of a forest.
For the ‘Wetlands and waterbodies’ toggle, Aqueduct shows the entire marked area and most
part of the sanctuary as a ‘Wetland complex (0-25% wetland)’ (see figure 9). This is surprising,
since the region is dry with very small seasonal waterbodies and no resemblance to wetlands.
Figure 9 : MWLS entrance marked on Aqueduct and the watershed shown by the tool
Note! We tried moving the pointer to various locations within our study area, however,
Aqueduct never came up with the area we wanted. This makes it difficult for us to use the
tool for a specific watershed.
Figure 10: Wetlands and waterbodies
On the other hand, Aqueduct shows up a high risk of soil erosion (figures 10, 11). Our observations
in this study support the data. The region has minor undulations and sparse ground canopy cover,
which makes it highly susceptible to soil erosion.
Figure 11: Watershed risk summary and map of soil erosion levels
Aqueduct shows the baseline water stress as very high (figure 12) which is also supported by our
water demand study in the neighboring villages of the sanctuary.
Figure 12 : Baseline water stress around the sanctuary
In its present form, the utility of Aqueduct in this project was very limited since it could not show
data pertaining to the study region, nor at a micro level. Our recommendation for improving the
tool is to periodically collect water data from NGOs and other organizations working in India, at a
micro level. We feel that Aqueduct’s value can be enhanced with micro level data and it will have
tremendous potential for researchers and NGOs. In Maharashtra, we can provide a list of such
agencies who may be able to provide the desired data.
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