FROM THE DIRECTOR'S DESK
During the past three decades, KFRI has made significant contributions totropical forestry research
that has made the Institute well known globally. The vision of KFRI is to achieve excellence in forestry research and to
use that competence to study and provide information for better management of our forests and for updating our policies
to suit the changing local needs and global challenges. The mission of the Institute is to provide research support for
the sustainable management of forests and environment, with particular emphasis on conservation of biodiversity, water
and soil resources of the State. The research and extension projects undertaken by the Institute have not only been of
local relevance but also of national and global Significance.
One such important area identified is Biodiversity documentation, conservation and utilisation. The concept has been based on the recognition of the value of different biotic components to sustain human life on earth and that all natural systems are to be viewed in their more complete perspective for their effective conservation. The Institute has already initiated a few projects on documentation of biodiversity in different Panchayaths. Conservation of rare, endangered and threatened plant and animal species is another aspect of research at KFRI. The Institute has also initiated programmes to establish arboreta and live collections of rare and endemic plants including medicinal plants, palms, orchids, bamboos and canes. Research into vegetative propagation and micropropagation of forestry species has yet been another major activity of KFRI in the past decade.
S. BABU AWARDED YOUNG SCIENTIST AWARD IN SCIENCE CONGRESS
Assessing the population status and distribution of owls in the southern Western Ghats
Except few hazy statements that owls are widely distributed throughout the India, there was no scientific-based survey or assessment on the population status of owls in the Indian subcontinent. With this background, the study was initiated with two research questions: 1) what is current population status of owls in the southern Western Ghats (a biodiversity hotspot)? and 2) how much area of fundamental niche is available in the southern Western Ghats for the long run conservation of owls?.
Survey methods: To answer these two questions, a systematic survey on owls was carried out by adopting four survey protocols namely dusk watch, initial quiet listening, call playback and spotlight. Altogether, 276 census points covering 24 forest areas were surveyed. The population status of owls was assessed based on the relative abundance of each owl species by pooling all the census points. The geographic distribution of owls were predicted through ecological niche modelling approach called Maximum Entropy paradigms, using a set of presence records of owls and certain uncorrelated bio-climatic, topographic and land-use variables.
A rare wintering migrant Short-eared owl was recorded for the first time in Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary. Ceylon bay owl was recorded newly from two protected areas namely Idukki and Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuaries. Dry deciduous and scrub forests, low altitude, mid sloppy and highly disturbed sites were species rich zones for the owls. Moist deciduous and wet evergreen forests, mid altitude, low sloppy and highly disturbed sites were abundant zones for the owls in the southern Western Ghats. Status of lesser owls was observed to be common to uncommon and it was uncommon to rare for large and moderate owls.
As far as the Indian subcontinent is concerned, it is a first study to assess the population status of owls in the Western Ghats and further, this is the first attempt to predict the geographic distribution of birds especially owls using ecological niche modelling approaches. Moreover, the study has created baseline information on distribution and population status of owls in the southern Western Ghats.