Climate change perspectives and conservation of sacred groves: Case of Sharngakavu, Kerala
India has a rich tradition in conserving non-forest patches known as sacred groves, through cultural and religious beliefs. Sacred groves not only preserve the indigenous biodiversity, it also mitigates the effects of climate change. This study explored the climate change awareness and environmental and cultural perceptions of people associated with Sharngakavu sacred grove in Kerala. Data was collected separately from native residents (NR) and non-resident devotees (NRD) through interviews and focus group discussions (FGD). Weighted average index (WAI) and Garrett scores were used to measure the perceived effects of climate change and the importance of socio-cultural values in sacred grove conservation. The results indicated that females in the middle age group of 41-65 years belonging to above poverty line economic status and graduate level of education dominated both NR and NRD categories. There was not much difference in the climate change awareness score of NR and NRD which were recorded at 97.5% and 92.5%, respectively. The majority of the respondents indicated a perceived increase in atmospheric temperature, decrease in precipitation, high seasonal variation in rainfall pattern, heavy decrease in water availability in natural sources, frequent occurrence of heat waves, and frequent recurring natural calamities as the important changes in weather parameters which was actually reflected in the weather data recorded from the region. Among the socio-economic parameters, the majority perceived food production to have recorded a very high increase despite the effect of climate change but livelihood options indicated deterioration. Religious beliefs and the conservation of biodiversity were the most important factors that influenced the continued conservation of this sacred grove.
Biodiversity conservation, Climate change, Natural vegetation, Perception, Sacred groves
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