The cutting edge
We are well equipped with expertise in an array of disciplines including the social sciences that can bring about some measure of syncretism. While we are at it, we also don't forget that people live in and near forests and depend on it for sustenance and that often our conventional paradigm of development does not augur well for what is good in the long-term for health of the environment.
Biodiversity in its entirety is often neglected in the quest for deeper understanding of the individual components by specialists. Research at the ecosystem level and landscape level is being undertaken and in the process we gain an insight into the mechanism by which the fine harmony that sustains life has evolved.
- Global Climate Change :
Global Climate Change has emerged the single most important challenge in recent times to researchers and policy makers who have to grapple with an array of issues whose nature and implications are still far from clear. To elucidate and address region specific issues and for exploring mitigative and adaptive methods to combat these issues, the Institute is developing the capability in terms of deployment of a multidisciplinary research team, setting up of permanent plots and revisiting the old ones.
- Forest Policy research :
Forest Policy research, through which we hope to play a greater role in bringing about responsible government policies is another of the big steps we propose to take with- This will lead to setting up an exclusive policy research facility at the Institute for research on policies relating to conservation, sustainable use of natural resources and institutional arrangements.
- Environmental Impact Assessment :
Pre- and Post- implementation impact assessment has become mandatory pre-requisite for all developmental projects. In a biodiversity hotspot like Western Ghats EIA studies should be a priority, leading to appropriate policies in environmental management and mitigation. KFRI has been instrumental in conducting several EIA studies and will continue to get involved in important ventures that impact on the forests and environment.
- Restoration Forestry:
Human impacted biotopes such as the coast, mangroves, river banks, headwaters, watersheds, highways, urban conglomerations, industrial belts are to be subjected to Afforestation and Reforestation. Suitable protocols and programmes are to be evolved for ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation by intensive research in the field. A relatively unexplored area that we hope to play a role is in urban forestry and greening initiatives with active involvement of local government bodies and the corporate sector.
Even while most of our enthusiasm is reserved for the study of the trees - the larger and more prominent component of the forest, we don't forget the lower forms of life which are an equally fascinating world of their own and also play a key ecological role. The below ground biodiversity is vital to the overall health of the ecosystem and it will be quite an effort to understand the nature and extent of damage caused by agricultural and industrial practices in the past. Fungi, lichens and the epiphytic flora has been studied as are the invertebrates that inhabit the soil. Butterflies and moths also caught our research attention and the butterfly garden in our campus where cultivated host plants encourage breeding of many species and the congregation of butterflies gives the visitors a visual treat all around the year. We have helped set up such butterfly parks in other parts of the state too.
- Clean development Mechanism:
A prime ecological service offered by forests and one that came into spotlight only in recent times, is that of carbon sequestration and its influence on global climate change. Henceforth forests will be conserved for yet another benefit. In addition to the well known role that forests play in the sustainability and health of water resources and top soil, the capacity of the vegetation to capture and hold carbon and minimize the effect the greenhouse gases will come to the fore. Plus its potential to bring monetary benefits to the community through the Clean Development Mechanism. What is to be unraveled is the exact dynamics of the carbon cycle in the different types of forests that we have in the region and manner in which it is utilized.
A double bonus is in the offing when the trees we nurture help safely lock up carbon from the atmosphere as well as provide other attendant benefits of having a perennial green cover on land. The potential in terms of trading under CDM is also a great incentive but the terms are yet to be wholly clear in the case of forestry. KFRI aims to be in the forefront of this emerging area and has built up capability to evaluate the latest trends in climate change and its consequences to the region and the economy.
- Eco-toxicological studies:
The euphoria over the Green Revolution is now fading away as we encounter one damaging effect after another of synthetic chemicals in the environment. Yet habits die hard and the chemicals continue to be overused.The poisons have seeped into the very fabric of our environment, permeating into the microcosm of every possible organism in the world around us. An emerging theme of research interest therefore is the evaluation of the danger of pesticide residues which will hopefully lead us to measures to tackle this still potent danger.
A team drawn from biochemists, soil chemists and entomologists will be examining the fate of the plant protection chemicals and their derivatives as they make their way into the soil. They will try to understand how the soil is involved in the retention/runoff and biodegradation of the chemicals and its impact in the long term on all life forms. The Institute's sophisticated in-house analytical capability will serve us well.
- Alien Invasive Species:
A new menace is looming over the horizon. We had always lived with a few weeds and the odd pest or two in our backyard.. With the increase in traffic of men and material across the globe, many species of plants, fungi and animals have also crossed the oceans, The forest and its biodiversity is in peril and with agricultural systems it causes immeasurable havoc.
The above list is expandable
KFRI has undertaken an important role in our battle against the threat to the forests and biodiversity. The Asia Pacific Invasive Species Network ( APFISN) under the aegis of FAO, that is hosted in our Institute serves as a forum for 33 countries in the Asia Pacific region. Through the newsletter and the training programmes that we organize, awareness about some of the more serious pests and measures to contain them is being disseminated.