Grasslands play an important role in helping the big cats survive in their natural habitat and they are also indirectly dependent upon it. Elaborate in the light of importance of grasslands.

Published: December 4, 2019

The Saurashtra region has with 106 reserved vidis (grasslands) maintained by the forest department and 434 non-reserved vidis which are controlled by other agencies.

They make 20 percent of the total grassland cover in Gujarat. 

Most of the vidis are part of the 22,000 sq. km Greater Gir landscape, which is home to the last of Asiatic Lions.  According to the 2015 census, one-third of their population is living outside protected forests and have made these grasslands their home. Thus, these grasslands are critical for lion seeing robust population growth over the years.

Affect on ecology – 

  •  Large scale encroachment and soil mining on such patches are affecting the ecology of the region
  • Village panchayats are unable to maintain their gauchars for lack of resources
  • Lack of management initiatives by the forest department
  • Invasion of woody and shrubby species has turned them into unproductive woodlots with the absence of grass. 
  • Species like lantana, prosopis, van tulsi and cassia now defines their vegetation. Which is unpalatable for wild and domestic animals.

The progressive degradation of grasslands has exacerbated some of the problems like – 

  • Shortage of fodder 
  • Lack of good grazing grounds for pastoralist community
  • Increase in crop depredation by wild herbivores

The result is degrading animal husbandry and agriculture which is the second major occupation in Saurashtra. As grasslands become unsuitable for wildlife and local livestock, it is shifting towards agricultural fields and human settlements resulting into increased human-wildlife conflict. 

Restoring the grasslands – 

Restoration is key for the big cats to survive in their favourable habitat. Community participation is the need of the hour which can help in clearing any woodlots and improving the nature of grasslands.

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