Divya Mudappa

Scientist, Western Ghats

Divya3

My primary research interests is in tropical ecology, particularly rainforests and applied ecological subjects such as restoration ecology and conservation biology. I have continuing academic interests in the fields of plant-animal interactions (particularly frugivory and seed dispersal) and animal behaviour.

Hornbills and small carnivores are the animal groups I study and specialize in. I studied the Malabar Grey Hornbill for my Master's dissertation (Salim Ali School of Ecology, Pondicherry University), followed by other studies on hornbills, including nearly a decade of nest monitoring, distribution and abundance surveys along the Western Ghats, and effects of rainforest fragmentation on hornbills. My doctoral thesis (Bharathiar University, Coimbatore) was on the ecology and conservation of the endemic and nocturnal brown palm civet, a frugivorous small carnivore in the tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats.

The broad goal and long-term plan of my research activities is to improve the scientific understanding of the patterns and processes in tropical ecosystems and to use this knowledge for implementation of conservation programmes that would benefit both wildlife and local communities.

Projects

Varattuparai 201

Completed

Fostering eco-friendly plantations

Linking sustainable agriculture and conservation in plantation landscapes

Gh in flight

Hornbill hotspots

Hornbill distribution and conservation threats

Cdy00008

Living with leopards

Carnivore, conflicts, and conservation in the Anamalai hills

Cover

Nurturing nature appreciation

Rekindling conservation awareness and connections with nature

Tea1

Of forests and farms

Conserving wildlife in forests and plantations in the landscape

Gopr0731

Otters in troubled waters?

Otters in the Kaveri - sharing space with riverine fisheries and sand mining

Elephant 1

Reviving the rainforest

Ecological restoration of degraded rainforest in the Anamalai hills

Ltm kalyan 1020

Completed

Towards wildlife-friendly roads

Studying and reducing impacts of roads on wildlife in the Anamalai hills

Figure2

Completed

Whittled-down woods

Plant communities and invasive species in forest fragments

Ltm with infant

Wildlife in rainforest fragments

Life in the treetops and undergrowth in rainforest remnants

Publications

  • Journal Article
    2018
    Seasonal variation in wildlife roadkills in plantations and tropical rainforest in the Anamalai Hills, Western Ghats, India
    Current Science. 114(3): 619-626.
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    PDF, 1.42 MB

  • Report
    2018
    Population assessment of the Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) using the Double-observer Survey method in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve
    Technical Report, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, India
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    PDF, 4.59 MB

  • Journal Article
    2018
    Breeding biology of Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis in tropical rainforest and human-modified plantation landscape in Western Ghats, India
    Ornithological Science, 17:205-216
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    PDF, 356 KB

    Loss of mature tropical forests to agricultural expansion often creates landscapes with forest fragments embedded within a matrix of human-modified habitats and land uses. Such habitat fragmentation may be detrimental to species with specialized habitat and foraging requirements and their ability to persist in such landscapes may depend on their adaptability to habitat modification. Great Hornbills Buceros bicornis, among the largest birds in Asian tropical rainforests, depend on large trees for nesting and a diverse array of patchily distributed fruiting trees. In the human-modified landscape of the Anamalai Hills, India, we compared the breeding biology and nesting behaviour of Great Hornbills in contiguous rainforest (N=3 nests) and in modified habitat consisting of coffee plantations and rainforest fragments (N=5 nests). The nesting cycle of seven of the eight nests monitored varied between 114 and 130 days. Nest provisioning behaviour was similar in contiguous forest and modified habitat in terms of visitation and food delivery rates, but visitation tended to be higher and food delivery rate lower during the nestling phase than during incubation. As expected, tree density and native food plant diversity were lower in modified habitat than in continuous forest. The diversity of food provisioned was lower in modified habitat with a 57.5% dietary overlap with contiguous forest. Hornbills in the modified habitat of coffee plantations used non-native tree species for nesting and foraging, indicating their adaptability to modified landscapes.

  • Journal Article
    2017
    Bats in the Ghats: Agricultural intensification reduces functional diversity and increases trait filtering in a biodiversity hotspot in India
    Claire F R Wordley, M Sankaran, Divya Mudappa, J D Altringham
    Biological Conservation 210: 48-55.

    The responses of bats to land-use change have been extensively studied in temperate zones and the neotropics, but little is known from the palaeotropics. Effective conservation in heavily-populated palaeotropical hotspots requires a better understanding of which bats can and cannot survive in human-modified landscapes. We used catching and acoustic transects to examine bat assemblages in the Western Ghats of India, and identify the species most sensitive to agricultural change. We quantified functional diversity and trait filtering of assemblages in forest fragments, tea and coffee plantations, and along rivers in tea plantations with and without forested corridors, compared to protected forests.

    Functional diversity in forest fragments and shade-grown coffee was similar to that in protected forests, but was far lower in tea plantations. Trait filtering was also strongest in tea plantations. Forested river corridors in tea plantations mitigated much of the loss of functional diversity and the trait filtering seen on rivers in tea plantations without forested corridors. The bats most vulnerable to intensive agriculture were frugivorous, large, had short broad wings, or made constant frequency echolocation calls. The last three features are characteristic of forest animal-eating species that typically take large prey, often by gleaning.

    Ongoing conservation work to restore forest fragments and retain native trees in coffee plantations should be highly beneficial for bats in this landscape. The maintenance of a mosaic landscape with sufficient patches of forest, shade-grown coffee and riparian corridors will help to maintain landscape wide functional diversity in an area dominated by tea plantations.

  • Journal Article
    2017
    Successional status, seed dispersal mode and overstorey species influence tree regeneration in tropical rain-forest fragments in Western Ghats, India
    Anand M Osuri, Dayani Chakravarthy, Divya Mudappa, T R Shankar Raman, N Ayyappan, S Muthuramkumar, N Parthasarathy
    Journal of Tropical Ecology 33: 270-284. DOI: 10.1017/S0266467417000219

    The effects of fragmentation and overstorey tree diversity on tree regeneration were assessed in tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats, India. Ninety plots were sampled for saplings (1–5 cm diameter at breast height (dbh); 5×5-m plots) and overstorey trees (>9.55 cm dbh; 20×20-m plots) within two fragments (32 ha and 18 ha) and two continuous forests. We tested the hypotheses that fragmentation and expected seed-dispersal declines (1) reduce sapling densities and species richness of all species and old-growth species, and increase recruitment of early-successional species, (2) reduce the prevalence of dispersed recruits and (3) increase influence of local overstorey on sapling densities and richness. Continuous forests and fragments had similar sapling densities and species richness overall, but density and richness of old-growth species declined by 62% and 48%, respectively, in fragments. Fragments had 39% lower densities and 24% lower richness of immigrant saplings (presumed dispersed into sites as conspecific adults were absent nearby), and immigrant densities of old-growth bird-dispersed species declined by 79%. Sapling species richness (overall and old-growth) increased with overstorey species richness in fragments, but was unrelated to overstorey richness in continuous forests. Our results show that while forest fragments retain significant sapling diversity, losses of immigrant recruits and increased overstorey influence strengthen barriers to natural regeneration of old-growth tropical rain forests.

  • Journal Article
    2017
    Conflict to coexistence: Human – leopard interactions in a plantation landscape in Anamalai Hills, India
    Conservation and Society 15(4): 474-482.
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    PDF, 1.18 MB

    When leopards are found in human-dominated landscapes, conflicts may arise due to attacks on people or livestock loss or when people retaliate following real and perceived threats. In the plantation landscape of the Valparai plateau, we studied incidents of injury and loss of life of people and livestock over time (15 – 25 y) and carried out questionnaire surveys in 29 plantation colonies and eight tribal villages to study correlates of livestock depredation, people's perception of leopards, and preferred management options for human – leopard interactions. Leopards were implicated in an average of 1.3 (± 0.4 SE) incidents/year (1990 – 2014) involving humans and 3.6 (± 0.8 SE) incidents/year (1999 – 2014) involving livestock, with no statistically significant increasing trend over time. Most incidents of injury or loss of life involved young children or unattended livestock, and occurred between afternoon and night. At the colony level, livestock depredation was positively related to the number of livestock, but decreased with the distance from protected area and number of residents. Half the respondents reported seeing a leopard in a neutral situation, under conditions that resulted in no harm. All tribal and 52% of estate respondents had neutral perceptions of leopards and most (81.9%, n = 161 respondents) indicated changing their own behaviour as a preferred option to manage negative interactions with leopards, rather than capture or removal of leopards. Perception was unrelated to livestock depredation, but tended to be more negative when human attacks had occurred in a colony. A combination of measures including safety precautions for adults and children at night, better livestock herding and cattle-sheds, and building on people's neutral perception and tolerance can mitigate negative interactions and support continued human – leopard coexistence.

  • Dataset
    2017
    Data from: Successional status, seed dispersal mode and overstorey species influence tree regeneration in tropical rain-forest fragments in Western Ghats, India
    Anand M Osuri, Dayani Chakravarthy, Divya Mudappa, T R Shankar Raman, N. Ayyappan, S. Muthuramkumar, N. Parthasarathy
    Dryad Digital Repository. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vd0nn.2

    Dataset available from the Dryad Digital Repository:
    https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vd0nn.2

    Original Publication
    Osuri AM, Chakravarthy D, Mudappa D, Raman TRS, Ayyappan N, Muthuramkumar S, Parthasarathy N (2017) Successional status, seed dispersal mode and overstorey species influence tree regeneration in tropical rain-forest fragments in Western Ghats, India. Journal of Tropical Ecology 33(4): 270-284. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266467417000219

  • Popular Article
    2016
    Rātriñcaranmār [In Malayalam: Night rangers, article on small carnivores].
    Koodu, October 4(5): 70-72.
    Download

    PDF, 496 KB

  • Popular Article
    2016
    Hornbills: the feathered foresters.
    Mudappa, D. 2016. JLR Explore, 15 May 2016.

    Most of us are familiar with charismatic mammals such as tigers, elephants and apes. And there are charismatic species amongst birds too: bustards, cranes, eagles. But in the Asian and African tropics are birds that gain charisma from their large size, spectacular appearance, and extraordinary breeding habits: the hornbills.

    Read here: http://jlrexplore.com/explore/focus/hornbills

  • Report
    2016
    Awareness and coexistence measures to conserve endangered lion-tailed macaques in the Valparai landscape, Western Ghats.
    Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore.

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