The need for research for practicing conservation relates to the fact that despite the considerable amount of money spent on conservation research, little attention is paid to ensuring that the findings of research are implemented for achieving on the ground conservation. AERF designs and uses research to find practical ways for biodiversity conservation and engaging with communities for action on the ground.
AERF conducts research that is required to enhance the understanding of the landscape and more so to develop a deeper understanding and prioritization of conservation issues on hand. AERF initiated research activities as early as 1995 with documentation and inventory-management of sacred groves for ensuring long-term community-based conservation of these cultural spaces. This research formed the ground for action to protect the sacred groves, plan the restoration and build the capacity of communities to revive the tradition.
Another example is the long term monitoring and protection of hornbill nesting sites within the sacred groves and other forest landscapes from Northern Western Ghats. Hornbills -all four species including endemic and near-threatened species are well distributed in the Northern Western Ghats- prefer giant trees in the old growth forests for their nesting sites .Their preferred species are Terminalia bellirica (bibhitaki / beheda) in sacred groves, Magifera indica mango and Syzygium cumini in forests and home gardens .These hornbills are ‘forest farmers’ as they are responsible for dispersal of many rare trees across the landscapes. AERF’s FairWild certification initiative and enterprise is built around the understanding created through long term research on hornbills in Northern Western Ghats and monitoring more than 40 nesting sites in Sangameshwar block.
AERF team has conducted over 50 research studies over the last two decades. Some of the important studies among these are; Mapping of Key biodiversity Areas (KBAs) from Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg district, resource assessments of native oilseed species such as Callophyllum innophyllum, Pongamia pinnata and Madhuca indica from Northern Western Ghats, resource assessment of Terminalia chebula and Terminalia bellirica trees in Sangameshwar and Bhimashankar, study of rare medicinal trees from Northern Western Ghats and mapping of Important Plant Areas(IPA) in private forest landscapes in the Northern Western Ghats.
AERF believes that it is crucial to look at development that is impacting biodiversity. As a part of legal requirements, development project proponents- both private companies and government line departments- require to get clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. AERF has been carrying out biodiversity assessments for this stakeholder group for quite some time and has worked with Government organizations / affiliates like BRO, BARC, NTPC . AERF has also worked with private sector companies to conduct such assessments at their project sites e.g. Reliance Cement, Rio Tinto and ITC, to name a few.