In South Asia, most ecosystems services are historically exploited by human beings for their own existence. In many cases, this has decimated biodiversity, and degraded the ability of these ecosystems to sustain critical ecosystem functions and support components of biodiversity. In other cases, limited human-use has been found to be compatible with the conservation of biodiversity. Accompanying this scenario is the state managed, top-down management system that is considered unviable for conservation of ecosystems such as rivers, marine areas, large wetlands and coastal areas. However, although strictly protected areas and areas with limited human-use and access managed by the state will continue to play a major role in conserving biodiversity, alternative models of conservation are essential to protect large areas such as forests, agro-ecosystems, wetlands, coastal and marine ecosystems, which lie outside protected areas.
Maintenance of biodiversity, ecosystem functions and associated ecosystem services in a changing environment is a challenging issue, as is identifying the scale and intensity of human use compatible with conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. It is imperative to develop governance models that enable participatory management and a more equitable, just and sustainable approach to conservation. However, our understanding of the complex web of social, political, economic and environmental change, the forces underlying these changes and the impact of these changes on biodiversity, local communities and humanity at large remains poorly understood.
The goal of this Centre is to build a critical body of knowledge about India's biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecosystem services of natural and managed ecosystems in the context of global, regional and local change and challenges. Understanding the role of biodiversity in sustaining human welfare is crucial to galvanizing conservation awareness and eliciting civil society support for conservation. Recognizing the structure, function, and value of biodiversity will enable us to prioritize outreach activities and natural resource management initiatives.