Managing Biodiversity in Mountain Landscapes
Funding Agency(ies):
European Union ; ANR (France) ; CIRAD ; IFP
Axis 3. of the Ecology Department /

In India, millions of farmers secure their agricultural production in agroforestry and mountain landscapes, and lakhs of forest-dwellers depend on forest for their day-to-day subsistence. Despite that, demographic pressure and economic imperatives are leading to a constant loss of forest cover associated to the fading of traditional ecological knowledge.

From innovative institutional schemes to ecolabelling and payment for environmental services, India is applying a wide array of strategies in order to foster biodiversity conservation by establishing links with local development. In doing so, India is keeping on par with the international community, whose focus has been shifting from biodiversity conservation to poverty alleviation and rationale use of natural resources between Rio (1992) and Johannesburg (2002).

The general objective of the project is to answer this question: What will be the impacts of those new public policies in terms of biodiversity, livelihoods, management practices and landscape dynamics?

To answer it, we will take the example of the coffee based agroforestry system of the Western Ghats. We will evaluate the environmental services it provides and devise strategies to reward planters that maintain those services. We will focus on the impacts of two specific institutional schemes: geographical indications and tree ownership rights. Considering this, the research programme will adress three specific objectives:

1. Coffee and Environmental Services: How to reward farmers that provide global and local environmental services?

2. Geographical Indications and Biodiversity: How can a market tool help maintain cultural and biological diversity?

3. Biodiversity and Governance: How can public policies (e.g. tree ownership rights) and local practices interact in a virtuous way?

Each of the components of the project is part of a broader, international research project backed up by the European Union (CAFNET programme) and the French "Agence Nationale de la Recherche" (BIODIVALLOC and POPULAR).

Materials and methods:

Research hypothesis:

This project is based on the following hypothesis built in collaboration with the Research Unit "Public Policies and Forest Resources" of CIRAD.

1. Conserving and restoring structural and functional diversity within a forest/agroforest landscape will enhance the production of goods and services, sustain the livelihoods of local populations and maintain a high degree of biological diversity.

2. Social and ecological resilience of forest/agroforest landscapes can be maintained through the diversification of forest resources and their management regimes. Economically rewarding the environmental services (water, carbon sequestration, pollination...) also contributes to the stability of the system.

3. Integrating local perceptions and knowledge within the management regimes implemented in public institutions fosters durability of the forest/agroforest landscapes.

The programme, conducted with an integrated approach in order to generate synergies, will give us the opportunity to test them in field situations.

Study Site:

Kodagu District (Karnataka State) is a major coffee-growing region in the Western Ghats of India. It produces one third of Indian coffee, mostly in agroforestry systems under native tree cover. In the last 30 years, in response to external market driven dynamics, intensification of coffee cultivation has led to the loss of 30% of the total forest cover, essentially in the species rich wet evergreen belt of the district. Furthermore, the native species of shade trees in coffee plantations are being replaced by exotic species thus increasing landscape fragmentation and blocking biological corridors.


We have adopted a multidisciplinary approach to tackle the complex issue of landscape dynamics of the Kavery watershed and their impact on the livelihood and the environment of the district.

We started with a Land Use change analysis based on satellite imagery. To back up the remote sensing, we did an intensive inventory of the canopy cover across 115 estates randomly distributed in the watershed. In more than 500 plots (see fig.1), we measured up to 50 trees above 30 cm girth at breast height. This constitutes a database of 20 023 trees, each with a measure of girth, height and species. Micro-economic data at the farm level was obtained through interviews with the same farmers, to allow the analysis of linkages between the canopy structure and profitability of the farms.

The drivers behind the described dynamics and their long term impact on the landscape are analyzed through Companion Modelling, a method that involves the stakeholders (here the farmers) in the development of the conceptual model (participatory modeling) and then explores long term dynamics and alternative scenarios through a Role Playing Game.

In addition, other approaches have been develop to address specific issues such as the response of cavity birds to the presence of Grevillea robusta, or the impact of the canopy cover on the rain interception.


Programme Leader

  • Dr. Claude Garcia, Ecology (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD)/ French Institute of Pondicherry).
    Linking biodiversity and livelihoods in coffee based agroforestry systems in the Western Ghats.

Affiliated Researchers

  • Dr. Sylvie Guillerme, Geography (Unité Mixte de Recherche Géographie de l’Environnement, (GEODE) Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Toulouse).
    Public policies and peasant tree and forest management in the Western Ghats.
  • Dr. Christelle Hinnewinkel, Geography (Unité Mixte de Recherche Aménagement, Développement, Environnement, Santé et Sociétés (ADES) Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Lille).
  • Dr. Delphine Marie-Vivien, Legal studies (CIRAD)
    Geographical Indications in comparative law.
  • Dr. Victoria Reyes-Garcia, ICREA Researcher, Institut de Ciencia i ecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)
    Ecological knowledge, its transmission and role in participatory forest management in the Western Ghats.

Associated Researchers

  • Prof. P.G. Chengappa, Economy (University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore).
    Supply chain analysis and Value addition of GI.
  • Dr. Philippe Vaast, ECophysiology (CIRAD, World Agroforestry Centre).
    CAFNET project leader
  • Dr. C.G. Kushalappa, Ecology (College of Forestry, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore).
    Biodiversity conservation in coffee based agroforestry systems in the Western Ghats.
  • Dr. Y. Raghuramulu, Agronomy (Central Coffee Board Research Institute).
    Participatory Development of Ecofriendly management packages for local farmers.

Ph.D candidates

  • Katie Demps, (University of California at Davis, USA).
    Transmission of local ecological knowledge in South India
  • Francisco Zorondo, (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain).
    Contribution of natural capital to the quality of life among tribal communities of South India
  • Nanaya, K.M., (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETHZ), Switzerland).
    Landscape level Dynamics and Ecosystem services

Research Assistants

  • Vidya Rao, Senior Research Fellow
  • Jennu Kala M.G., Research Assistant
  • Aravajy S., Research Assistant
  • Ramalingam S., Research Assistant
  • Barathan N., Technical Assistant


Staff ( IFP & External )

ARAVAJY S., Ingénieur d’études
BARATHAN N., Technician