• Acacia and eucalyptus plantations are notorious for the ecological problems they cause.
  • Yet, in southwest Karnataka, these monocultures have become crucial elephant habitats and need to be protected along with natural forest patches to minimise human–elephant conflict, suggests a study published in Tropical Conservation Science.
  • In Karnataka’s Hassan and Madikeri — a landscape consisting of plantations (teak, coffee, acacia and eucalyptus), paddy fields and small, fragmented forest patches — human–elephant conflict is high.
  • Reacting to this, authorities removed 22 elephants from the area in 2014.
  • However, elephants from habitats nearby colonized the area again.
  • With conflict rising, scientists at the Nature Conservation Foundation including Vinod Krishnan studied how the elephants — now approximately 30 in number — used 205 villages here between 2015 and 2017.
  • They first tracked daily elephant movement (using direct observation and indirect signs such as dung).
  • With this, they mapped the intensity of use of each village by elephants.
  • However, the team found a high concentration of elephant presence in the northern part of the region in the second year.
  • The logging of trees in abandoned coffee estates in the central zone, and the installation of barriers around these estates, clustered elephant presence in the north.
  • This increased human–elephant conflict here, revealed an analysis of crop damage incidents and human casualties.

What about the Habitat types?

  • The team also mapped elephant distribution across different habitat types (such as reserved forests, agricultural fields and monocultures of acacia and eucalyptus) to study habitat use.
  • During the day, elephants preferred monoculture refuges (of acacia, teak and eucalyptus) and forest fragments, and avoided other habitats including coffee and human habitations.
  • But during the night, they used coffee plantations and agricultural fields the most.
  • Seasons too played a role: while elephants used forests and coffee plantations more during the dry season, they frequented agricultural fields in the wet season.
  • Across the years, while the elephants’ use of monoculture refuges and coffee increased, their use of forest fragments drastically decreased (from 15% to 2%).
  • In areas where natural forests have been wiped out, monocultures — which serve as refugia for elephants and help them move between habitats — could help minimize human–elephant conflict and promote coexistence between people and elephants.
  • Acacia and eucalyptus plantations are notorious for the ecological problems they cause.
  • Yet, in southwest Karnataka, these monocultures have become crucial elephant habitats and need to be protected along with natural forest patches to minimise human–elephant conflict, suggests a study published in Tropical Conservation Science.
  • In Karnataka’s Hassan and Madikeri — a landscape consisting of plantations (teak, coffee, acacia and eucalyptus), paddy fields and small, fragmented forest patches — human–elephant conflict is high.
  • Reacting to this, authorities removed 22 elephants from the area in 2014.
  • However, elephants from habitats nearby colonized the area again.
  • With conflict rising, scientists at the Nature Conservation Foundation including Vinod Krishnan studied how the elephants — now approximately 30 in number — used 205 villages here between 2015 and 2017.
  • They first tracked daily elephant movement (using direct observation and indirect signs such as dung).
  • With this, they mapped the intensity of use of each village by elephants.
  • However, the team found a high concentration of elephant presence in the northern part of the region in the second year.
  • The logging of trees in abandoned coffee estates in the central zone, and the installation of barriers around these estates, clustered elephant presence in the north.
  • This increased human–elephant conflict here, revealed an analysis of crop damage incidents and human casualties.

What about the Habitat types?

  • The team also mapped elephant distribution across different habitat types (such as reserved forests, agricultural fields and monocultures of acacia and eucalyptus) to study habitat use.
  • During the day, elephants preferred monoculture refuges (of acacia, teak and eucalyptus) and forest fragments, and avoided other habitats including coffee and human habitations.
  • But during the night, they used coffee plantations and agricultural fields the most.
  • Seasons too played a role: while elephants used forests and coffee plantations more during the dry season, they frequented agricultural fields in the wet season.
  • Across the years, while the elephants’ use of monoculture refuges and coffee increased, their use of forest fragments drastically decreased (from 15% to 2%).
  • In areas where natural forests have been wiped out, monocultures — which serve as refugia for elephants and help them move between habitats — could help minimize human–elephant conflict and promote coexistence between people and elephants.