Bharath Sundaram

Invasive species have been recognised as one of the primary threats to biodiversity. My doctoral research examines the patterns and processes underlying the success Lantana camara, a common plant invasive in most parts of India. Lantana is native to Central and South America. Introduced into India in the early 19th Century, lantana is conspicuous in tropical dry forests, along railway tracks, forest-field edges, and fallow agriculture.

My thesis focusses on four broad aspects of lantana invasion. Firstly, I examine the spread of lantana and the response of native species to lantana invasion using long-term data. Secondly, I examine the role played by disturbance factors such as forest fires, landscape modification history, and contemporary disturbance regimes as factors influencing lantana invasion. Thirdly, I examine the role played by soil seed banks in enhancing lantana success. Lastly, I examine how traditional knowledge systems approach invasive species such as lantana. Field data for these different aspects of lantana invasion comes from a tropical dry forest landscape in the Western Ghats, namely the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary.

Results from my research will provide detailed insights into how native biodiversity responds to invasive species like lantana, and will link patterns of lantana spread to processes underlying lantana success. Additionally, by tapping into hitherto under-utilized information sources such as traditional knowledge systems, I hope to broaden the agenda for invasive species research.