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Invasive Plant Poses Threat to Sloth Bear Habitats, Escalating Conflict Concerns

A quantitative study conducted in the Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary reveals the impact of the invasive plant Prosopis juliflora on sloth bear habitat utilization. The research emphasizes the negative influence of higher quantities of the plant on sloth bear habitat use, highlighting the significance of elevation, terrain ruggedness, dense forest cover, and open scrub areas in enhancing habitat suitability.

Gujarat, chosen for its substantial sloth bear population and widespread presence of P. juliflora, becomes a focal point for understanding the interactions between invasive species and wildlife. Researchers aim to provide valuable insights for conservation planning, considering the state’s diverse ecology.

The study delves into the semi-arid landscape of Gujarat, characterized by varying agro-climatic zones. The extreme north and northwest exhibit arid conditions, while the south experiences a sub-humid climate with lush vegetation. The rest of the state falls under a semi-arid climate, marked by sparse vegetation and vulnerability to drought and soil erosion.

The introduction of P. juliflora, originating from Central and South America in 1877, aimed to transform dry landscapes into green spaces and provide livelihoods and fuelwood. However, the plant’s adaptability raised concerns over time, leading to its classification as an invasive alien plant species in India. A 2015 analysis of 3,624 animal observations highlighted its detrimental impact on wildlife diversity, fitness, and ecosystem functioning, prompting its recognition as a top invader by the National Biodiversity Authority.

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