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Little Acre Dossier


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A Dossier on Little Are

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Little Acre Dossier

  1. 1. L I TT L E A C R ELittle AcreOur Last Chance To Save Them
  3. 3. L I TT L EOn the Cover : The towering giants of the emergent layer rise above the dense canopy, capturing a clear advantage over theirneighbours in the quest for more sunlight. The omnipresent tropical vines creep up in their hunger for sunlight. Most of the ac tivityin a rainforest takes place hundreds of feet above the forest floor in the canopy layer, where sunlight and food are plenty. Th e talljungle trees are the pillars and superintendents of a rainforest, the frame of the house and its chief occupants. A C R E “If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid.” From Erskine Caldwell’s bestseller , God’s Little Acre Little AcreDear Member A rainforest patchThis is no business document. This is no appeal seeking p r o t e c t i o n i n i t i a t i v e froman economic transaction alone. Here is a dossier that The Coorg Consortium for Conservationpresents to you a model of rainforest protection that makeshistory in corporate environment initatives. This is an offerto participate in the effort we are making at one tiny pieceof rainforestland that is ecologically rich, and is seriouslythreatened. The Western Ghats hold many such pockets ofcore zone forests that need restoration. Yes, the protection programme that we outline here willIn a group such as ours that has worked for over fifteen make good sense to you as an economic investment. Butyears on environment impact, we are appalled by the that, you’ll agree, is only one, and a small, part of theworld’s ignorance on what’s ahead of us all. As you read story.this document, you’ll soon see why. Consider what we have to say here, and what we haveAs an enterprise, Biodiversity Conservation [India] Limited done on the ground in other forums that the Consortiumhas already won discerning national acclaim for its participates in, under the larger canopy of BCIL. We arepathfinding work in sustainability. And its tight–knit committed to dedicating our time and energies to thisprofessional groups have stewarded many land areas daunting effort. We know you share our concern — lestresponsibly to restore gradually its natural resources. BCIL why would you be reading this? — but can’t quite commithas specialized in processes that heal degraded lands. The your time, in view of your professional preoccupations. Soplight of our rainforests, we realise, need serious attention then, join in on this creative and exciting programme. It’llfrom resource persons like us who are professionally be rewarding. That’s a promise.equipped to manage such restoration processes. That’s For The Coorg Consortium for Conservationhow the Coorg Consortium for Conservation was born,dedicated entirely to working in the fragile habitats of the Hariharan ChandrashekarWestern Ghats. Director
  4. 4. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ towering trees. The ancient tree–stands reach out to ○ ○ COORG CONSORTIUM ○ the skies, far above the lofty leaf canopy in their search for ○ ○ sunlight. You are no more than six hours— or is it seven?— ○ ○ ○ from Bangalore, but the city seems many worlds away. And ○ ○ Mumbai is under five hours away with a daily connecting ○ ○ ○ flight from Mangalore. ○ ○ ○ It took us less than a half–hour to drive in from Madikeri, ○ ○ ○ the sleepy planters’ town that nestles on the butt of an ○ So Large, ○ imposing ridge. We were in the rich, lush green bowl of ○ ○ Yet So Vulnerable ○ Bhagamandala. The valley was called Kopatti. And the place, ○ ○ Little Acre. ○ ○ ○ When you’re alone in the forest, you’re aware that life is ○ ○ The buttressed tree trunks, the climbing creepers, the streams everywhere around you. You feel a part of it. You realise ○ you are just one more form of life in a very complex of mountain water, the moist rich earth, the rare shafts of ○ ○ system. sunlight through the dense foliage... It all seemed so large, ○ ○ ○It is a defining moment. You see stillness as a value as so powerful, and larger than us. And it all seemed so ○ ○ ○you stand deep down on the forest floor amid the precious, and vulnerable. This forest is one of the last bastions ○
  5. 5. in a largely depleted Coorg greenscape. Coorg alone has L I TT L Esuffered a fifty per cent loss of its forests in less than fiftyyears! And those forest patches that have survived, have The Little Acre Ecoregion A C R Emanaged to do so only because the landowning families plays host to 13,000 full growncould not afford the money to convert them to plantations. trees. . .Our reason, as an organisation, to be in the Kopatti valley issingleminded: what can we do to buy, protect and manage pthis ecologically important forest expanse? long term. In our small way, we will have helped secure the ○ ○ future of the natural world. ○Some of us have seen for many years that the future of ○ ○rainforests the world over and the future of the planet are All of the western ghats — which is one of the eighteen ○ ○ ○inextricably linked. And if an alternative to their accelerating surviving hotspots of biodiversity in the world — is no more ○ ○destruction is not found within this decade, we may then ○ ○ ○ than 160,000 sq. km. Or 16 million hectares. Of this, ahave lost the opportunity — forever. little over 20 per cent — or 3 million hectares — account ○ ○ for the core green zones that have remained untouched, ○You and I are far more conscious, in recent years, of the ○ ○ pristine — and this is for the entire western ghats. It takes ○need ‘to do something’ about our environment. We shrug ○ little to understand what this means, if you only remind ○our shoulders in despair at the inaction of governments. We ○ ○ yourself that some 11 million hectares of the world’s tropical ○think there’s little we can do in our lives, individually. At the ○ forests are disappearing each year. ○Consortium, we said to ourselves that this initiative at buying ○ ○ ○and managing one rainforest patch will be the first of a series Awareness alone will not save these rainforests — blueprints ○ ○of such efforts to protect these Last Great Places over the for positive action for protection and sustenance is needed. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ All Those Carbon Sinks ○ ○ ○ Every naturally full–grown tree can absorb ○ ○ up to 60 kg of carbon dioxide while giving ○ Going, Going, Gone. . .? ○ out about 45 kilos of life-giving oxygen every ○ ○ Gallery forests year — the CO 2 absorbed is as much as the ○ The Western ghats — once ○such as this one at pollutants put out by a car on running ○ occupying [circa 1840] an area ○Little Acre are 18,000 km. ○ of more than 500,000 sq. km ○particularly quick The Little Acre Ecoregion plays host to ○ from the Ratnagiri district of ○to restore forest 13,000 full grown trees — that’s 234 million ○ Maharashtra, to the Agasthya ○cover in areas that kms of abuse every year compensated by ○ forests south of Silent Valley in ○have undergone just this one rainforest patch. ○ Kerala, has now been reduced ○widespread ○ to a mere 160,000 sq km. ○degradation. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
  6. 6. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ mercifully, has also shown no dramatic increase in its ○ COORG CONSORTIUM ○ population and therefore offers the best hope — and possibly ○ ○ ○ the last — for protecting one of the world’s vanishing natural ○ ○ treasures. ○ ○ ○ ○ The Consortium’s Little Acre Ecoregion is only the beginning ○ ○ of a movement to catalyse similar conservation programmes ○ ○ throughout the Western Ghats. It is the Consortium’s first of ○ ○ ○ a series of efforts at implementing strategies that will help ○ A Quiet Haven ○ save these forests, and enrich their biodiversity over the long ○ ○ ○ term. ○ We have not inherited the earth from our fathers. We are ○ ○ borrowing it from our children. The model that Little Acre presents is simple: it’s about what ○ ○To visit Little Acre — the breathtaking expanse of green that ○ rainforests are, why we need them, and how we explain ○ ○serves as a quiet haven for several bustling life forms — is their remarkable biology. Little Acre presents to you striking ○ ○an experience in itself. Butterflies dance perkily in the fairytale ○ illustrations of the interrelationships between plants, animals, ○ ○white mosaic of coffee blooms in spring, rare birds croon for and the environment in these par ticularly complex ○ ○their mates, and insects buzz and sizzle tirelessly. ○ ecosystems on Earth. ○ ○ Nestling to the southwest of ○ We can’t buy them all, and we certainly can’t protect them ○ ○ Karnataka, Coorg or Kodagu is a tiny single–handed. But by joining together with communities, ○ ○ but rich district of Karnataka. The ○ businesses, governments, partner organizations and people ○ ○ Coorg bowl still sports natural forests BANGALORE like you, we can preserve our lands and waters for future ○MANGALORE ○ that have remained untouched. Coorg, ○ generations to use and enjoy. ○The mist–ladencanopy is typicalof Coorg forests.These tallemergent treescharacterize anyrainforest.
  7. 7. L I TT L E Life-Giver for ○ ○ ○ ○ the Peninsula ○ The southwest monsoon spells ○ ○ A C R E over 23 feet of rainfall for this ○ ○ The library of life is on fire, and we must put it out. ○ rainforest patch— that is, ○ ○The Coorg hills, nearly all of them, lie nestled on the eastern nearly ten times over the ○ ○slopes of the Western Ghats. The southwest monsoon does ○ average Indian rainfall. ○ ○not mean rainfall in Coorg — it spells a deluge of 7000 mm p ○ ○of rains in less than seven hundred hours [June–Sept]. That ○ ○translates to over 23 feet of rainfall, or nearly ten times over ○ ○ ○the average Indian rainfall. ○ ○ ○The Coorg highlands, at an average altitude of 1200 meters, ○ ○ All festivals of the Coorg people revolve around a celebration ○also forms the catchment bowl for the longest life–sustaining ○ of Earth and the elements — the ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’ ○river basin of peninsular India — the river Cauvery. ○ ○ worshipped are Mother Earth [Onatavva], Moon [Nerathi], ○The significance of Coorg with its record rainfall is ○ the forest [Banadevi], water [Neer–muttachi], the aerial ○ ○incalculable. On her winding trail of 805 kms to the Bay of ○ spirits [Kaathu–muttachi], and fire [Thi–muttachi]. ○Bengal, Cauvery irrigates one–quarter of all cultivable lands ○ ○ The utter simplicity of lifestyle is endearing and serves as a ○in peninsular India. The rice granary of the South would not ○ soothing balm to the weary urban traveller. ○be possible but for the sustained richness of the natural ○ ○ ○resources of the Coorg ecosphere. The entire civilization of ○ ○the Tamils — and the river runs more than three–quarters ○ ○ ○her length in Tamil Nadu — has been nourished by the waters ○ ○of the Cauvery. ○ ○ ○The Coorg forest is one of the most diverse, and imperilled, ○ ○ ○ecospheres in India. If there is no conscious effort to preserve Operation Shock and Awe? ○ ○the Coorg bowl, we would be compromising its astounding ○ Tropical rainforests will disappear ○ ○biological diversity. There are close to 750 species of flora from four countries in America, ○ ○ three countries in Africa and two ○and fauna faced with possible extinction unless the habitat ○ countries in Asia in the next twenty ○is made more viable, protected and managed over the long ○ years. And within fifty years, ○ ○term. tropical rainforests will vanish from ○ ○ the face of the earth, unless the ○The diversity of plants in these valleys is amazing. And Coorg ○ world does something drastic right ○has remained protected from the ravages of ‘development’ ○ away. ○ ○elsewhere in the plains. The ancient tradition of sacred ○ ○groves, or devara kaadu continues to be alive in these hills. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
  8. 8. COORG CONSORTIUM Flowering emergent tree Deciduous canopy trees Emergent tree Canopy Understorey of smaller or younger trees Herb layer Light gap Smooth unbranched trunk Buttress root Giant fern Climbing plant Little Acre — ○This mock-up typifies a ○ ○rainforest — closely spaced A Biodiversity Vault ○ ○trees with flat, spreading ○ ○crowns of neighbouring trees ○ ○that fit together like pieces of Our biodiversity can only be saved one step at a time: ○ one on one, a patch at a time. ○a jigsaw puzzle. ○ ○You can see mosaics within The first of a series of rainforest patches under the ○ ○mosaics. Leaves on stems, ○ Consortium’s protective arm is Little Acre. Located on the ○and stems on trees as a ○ fringe of the largest natural catchment area of the sub- ○whole, are organised so that ○ ○there is minimum overlap. continent — the Bhagamandala watershed — the thickly ○ ○Each leaf is positioned such wooded ecoregion sprawls over a 35–hectare expanse. Little ○ ○that it can absorb all the light ○ Acre, in its natural splendour, showcases the surviving ○it needs to photosynthesize ○ species of wild flora, fauna, avifauna [birds] and ○efficiently. ○ ○ herpetofauna [reptiles] of the Coorg bowl. ○ ○ ○ The Consortium has sought to establish Little Acre as a ○ ○ unique model of a protected ecoregion. It has chalked out a ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
  9. 9. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ L I TT L E ○series of specific plans for a collaborative, science–based ○ ○approach to conservation. Its baseline objectives are — ○ Little Acre is an environmental ○ ○sustaining wildlife, teaching ecology, and working to preserve ○ extreme that offers a fascinating A C R E ○one of the few remaining biodiversity vaults left in the bowl ○ opportunity to know response of ○ ○of Coorg. The Consortium works closely with the Centre for ○ natural ecosystems to stress. ○Life Technologies, and has access to scientific talent in areas p ○ ○ ○of reforesting, ecosystems studies, and fauna and flora ○ ○diversity. ○ ○ ○The Little Acre forest is an invaluable biological curiosity. It ○ ¨ Assessing Viability ○ ○represents an environmental extreme and, as such, is an ○ The team also assesses the health of the occurrence of each ○ ○excellent and fascinating opportunity to see the response of conservation target to ensure survival over the long term by ○ ○natural ecosystems to environmental stress. ○ ○ ○ choosing the best and most healthy examples of such target.Planned Conservation Process Assembling Portfolios ○ ¨ ○ ○ ○The Consortium defines its conservation priorities through a All this information is analyzed by the teams and expert ○ ○process of elaborate ecoregional planning. There are five partners, through modeling and periodic stock-taking, to ○ ○ ○steps in this process: design an efficient network of conservation areas that if ○ ○ protected in its entirety will ensure the preservation of ○¨ Identifying Conservation Targets ○ ○ biodiversity within the ecoregion. ○Ecoregional planning teams made up of Consor tiumprofessionals and partners identify the species, naturalcommunities and ecosystems within the ecoregion.¨ Gathering Information Wonder Water Maker A single large emergent forest treeThe teams gather data about conservation targets, such as pumps some 200 gallons [or 1,000 liters]location and health, from a variety of sources including of water per day into the atmosphere.satellite images and rapid ecological assessments. Through this process, one acre of¨ Setting Goals tropical rainforest releases 20,000 gallons of water into the atmosphereEcoregional planning teams set goals for each of the daily for cloud formation. That is twentyconservation targets. Setting conservation goals involves times the amount the sea contributesdetermining how much of a particular target is needed to through evaporation from the same surface area.ensure its long–term survival. A conservation goal alsoincludes how the target needs to be distributed across the At Little Acre alone, that accounts for about eight million litres of waterlandscape. pumped every day into the atmosphere.
  10. 10. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ Returning the Forest ○COORG CONSORTIUM ○ ○ Unto Itself ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ It took longer to get far into the forest. It seemed that the ○ ○ trees, feeling they were losing the argument with human ○ beings, had simply walked deeper into the forest. ○ ○ Ben Okri , The Famished Road. ○ ○ ○ The Consortium’s programmes at Little Acre revolve around ○ ○ cordoning of the forest patch and strengthening the ○ ○ ○ succession process of the forest. How do we implement a ○ ○ methodology for helping a now–degraded forest return to its ○ ○ ○ original climax state? Forests have been disturbed from their ○ In the tangle of climbing plants that connect many of the trees, a falling tree usually brings down others with it. At once saplings present in the gap respond to increased sunlight and put on a spurt of growth.
  11. 11. L I TT L Epristine states over the last one hundred years, either byclear felling or by cultivation or plantation. Such disturbed Disturbed forests can return to theirforests can return to their pristine state only as they colonize A C R E pristine state only as they colonizethe degraded forestland. the degraded forestland. . .This takes a long time, sometimes over twenty to thirty years,because the micro–environment has changed, rendering itunsuitable for the forests. If we nurture the procedure well, janother group of trees and plants called the ‘primary analysed. Many of these tribes have disappeared in the last ○successional species’ take over the site. This group modifies ○ ○ hundred years. Fast–disappearing species are a problem, ○the micro–climate enough for the second group of trees to ○ but knowledge of how species may be used is disappearing ○invade, called the ‘secondary successional species’. Finally, ○ ○ faster still. ○come the climax species. ○ ○ Part of the effort at Little Acre is creation of a Biodiversity ○The existence at the Little Acre ecoregion of some plants of ○ Register enlisting all the plant species that are found in this ○ ○the genus, Strobilanthus [or Kurinji in local parlance] is clear ○ ecoregion. Programs include repropagation of such ○evidence that the Little Acre forests are already in the tertiary ○ endangered plant species in a manner that its cultivation ○ ○stage of succession. Further protection over the next decade ○ on a sustainable basis could also be enabled in the long ○will lead to the return of other species which are typical of ○ term. ○ ○climax vegetation of the rainforest floor. Such species in the ○ ○understoreys that we soon hope to see at the Little Acre ○ ○ ○campus are the canes [Calamus, Dandrocalamus] and some ○ ○palms. Ferns of the genus Selaginella which are typical ○ ○ ○ground–level plants of the climax rainforest of the western ○ ○ghats, are already, happily, present at Little Acre. ○ ○ ○God’s Own Medicine Chest ○ ○ ○ ○The Little Acre ecoregion, like any other rainforest, is a huge The Daily Does Them In ○ ○natural pharmacy. Many major world drugs are derived from ○ Can you and I do without our ○ ○rainforest plants. And as people have moved away from newspaper? It would help if you cut on ○ ○ its purchase. If it’s available in thetraditional lifestyles, their knowledge of forest plants and ○ ○ office, don’t buy at home. It takes 17 ○animals has been seriously eroded. At the Consortium efforts ○ trees to make one tonne of paper. ○are being made to archive and record this enormous reservoir ○ Depending on what newspapers you ○ ○of information. Many tribes in the Western Ghats make use read you would be using up one tree ○ ○ every 10 to 12 weeks.of more than 50 different species of plants for medicinal ○ ○ ○purposes, yet virtually none of these has been properly ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
  12. 12. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ COORG CONSORTIUM There are many things scientists and conservationists within ○ ○ ○ the Consortium understand of the patterns of life in these ○ ○ forests. There are many more things we further seek to do to ○ ○ ○ revive and rejuvenate these forests. The Consortium serves ○ ○ as the creative gateway for fulfilling your aspiration of keeping ○ ○ ○ our green wilds, well, green. ○ ○ ○ What we’re talking about is a conscious, ethical investment ○ ○ A Conscious, Ethical ○ you make that helps to preserve a rich ecological wilderness, ○ ○ Investment while ensuring financial benefits, and a rewarding ○ ○ ○ relationship with the forests, for a lifetime. Your investment ○ ○ in the Consortium embodies a responsible ethic. And what ○ Our generation needs to book a passage to a different ○ kind of future, one that will recognise concerns that seem ○ ○ better place to begin than our own ‘backyard’, the Western to be in some distant, far horizon, but will soon touch ○ Ghats and within it, specially, the Coorg region which is ○ our everyday lives and living. ○ ○ crying out for immediate attention. ○While we ensure that this key reserve is forever off limits to ○ ○agriculture, it is as important that these healthy forests and There are a few models the world over of conservation ○ ○ ○human enterprise can coexist. efforts, such as these, where the lands are bought and ○ These tropical trees are supported by roots which are largely above ground, taking the form of buttresses; thin strong flanges which extend 16–20 feet up the trunk. If these supports are cut away, the tree can easily be pushed over. The buttresses span a wide area, sending down fine feeding roots into the soil.
  13. 13. L I TT L Eprotected, forever. All that BCIL and the Consortium for Coorg ○ ○ ○Conservation seek is the establishment of a creative gateway ○ ○for revenues that will help us distribute the equity of these By joining together with you, we ○ ○ A C R E ○rainforest lands among a select few people who share our can preserve our lands and ○ ○collective concern. waters for the future. . . ○ ○ t ○The group has been committed — over fifteen years — in all ○ ○ ○its projects to making investment of time and professional ○ ○resources to trigger creative processes that help heal lands ○ ○ ○that are degraded. For centuries such natural resources were ○ ○utilised, not exploited. And excessive abuse in the last 10– ○ ○ ○12 decades has sapped many land areas of their ability to ○ ○restore themselves. Here is where the Consortium hopes to ○ ○ ○play a catalysing role. ○ ○ ○We realised that we needed to establish a quid pro quo for ○ ○the relationship we seek with you. Thus the investment that ○ ○ ○you make in the Consortium is structured to ensure a fair ○ ○ ○and equitable return. It is also designed to help us achieve ○ ○the objective of healing and restoring this patch of rainforest ○ ○ ○land, with activities that will sustainably generate revenues ○ ○over the years ahead. ○ ○ ○We are driven by a simple belief: our forests are more valuable ○ ○ ○in fact and alive, than they are chopped down and dead. ○ ○ ○There are enough numbers of people such as you, who are, ○ ○ It Just Doesn’t Pour Here. . . ○and will be, willing to support and encourage this long–term ○ ○effort. Our only reward is: future generations, our children, The Little Acre ecoregion is one of the ○ ○ wettest parts of the planet. Less than ○can inherit an earth which is as good as it has been for us. ○ 0.01 per cent of the entire surface of ○ ○ ○ Earth — land mass and seas — receives ○ ○ as much rain as this region does. ○ ○ ○ This tiny rainforest patch alone receives ○ ○ as much as 2.2 billion litres of ○ ○ rainwater in less than five months of ○ ○ every year. ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
  14. 14. ○ COORG CONSORTIUM are part of an uninterrupted belt. We see ourselves as part ○ ○ ○ of the longer chain of the Western ghats. The values we ○ ○ engender on the rainforest tours are aimed at protecting the ○ ○ ○ uniqueness of this ecoregion. Here are some programmes ○ ○ that have been set in motion. ○ ○ ○ Little Acre offers unique Volunteer Reforestation Programmes ○ ○ ○ The Consortium Upholds. . . with guests planting native trees as part of trek tours. ○ ○ ○ Soil, water and energy management are keystones of all ○ What is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry ○ plans for development. ○ of the koel, or the arguments of the frog around at night? ○ ○ — Anon ○ The management of Little Acre and its hospitality will largely ○Little Acre is a private nature preserve protecting 35 hectares ○ be taken care of by local people from the immediate ○ ○of highland evergreen deciduous rainforests. The Consortium ○ community. ○has direct control over these forests. The forest also acts as ○ ○ Utilizing local time–tested natural materials for construction, ○a buffer zone for nearly 700 hectares of pristine forestlands. ○ respect for traditional architecture and recognition of ○ ○The Consortium recognizes the importance of the forest ○ present–day engineering needs are central to all ○ ○canopy and its value to the larger preserve. Our rainforests ○ infrastructure creation. ○ Fungi thrive on decaying matter on the forest floor. The health of a forest lies in the vitality of its floor.