Linking biodiversity conservation and livelihoods in India.
In a country like India, millions of people rely on products from natural ecosystems to sustain their livelihood. Natural ecosystems provide clean water from watersheds, retention of soil and soil fertility, sequestration of carbon, as well as pollinators and natural predators of pests. For these reasons, rapid, often irreversible, loss of species and ecosystems is of more than just academic concern. Indeed, our understanding of biodiversity in natural ecosystems remains so woefully inadequate that we are unable to fully comprehend the consequences of its loss. With impending climate change and increasing spread of invasive species, the biodiversity crisis is likely to get worse, with far-reaching effects on human societies.
To meet these challenges, we need institutions and scholars that can generate new knowledge, and apply it to resolve our most pressing environmental issues. The Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) (http://www.atree.org) was established in 1996 to curtail the rapid loss of India's biological resources and natural ecosystems, and to address the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of this decline. We highlight below two examples of ATREE's work from very different ecosystems and regions.