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India is one of the world's most biodiverse countries, and also the world's second-most populous country with a very large population of rural and urban poor. Moreover, it has ambitions to become a major industrialized nation. As a result, India faces contradictory choices of conserving biodiversity on one hand and ramping up its use of natural resources on the other hand for developing necessary infrastructure for economic development, alleviating poverty and increasing agricultural productivity. If we are to conserve biodiversity in the Indian Region, we need a better understanding of how biodiversity has evolved in this complex natural landscape, how it is affected by human history and modern progress, and how its loss will contribute towards degradation of the quality of life and economic growth in India.

Although our lab is primarily a basic research lab, we are committed to making advances in understanding natural and social issues that will be critical in biodiversity conservation in India. We do this in various ways. First, we research on topics that will shed light on the evolutionary and ecological history of biodiversity in the Indian Region, e.g., phylogenetic patterns of speciation and endemism, phylogeographic structure of populations, and ecological requirements of representative insects (our favorites). Second, we use this understanding to come up with traditional as well as novel suggestions for biodiversity conservation, and we directly communicate these to policy-makers at national and local levels. Third, we collaborate with grassroots governmental and non-governmental bodies that closely work with tribal and other rural communities whose lives are influenced the most by the presence and quality of forests and biodiversity in their neighborhood. This engagement is with the long-term goal of informing local action for biodiversity conservation, and actually participating in some of the conservation activities that will benefit both the local human communities as well as the biodiversity.

Publications (also see the pages about conservation efforts in the Garo Hills and the Pakke Tiger Reserve):

Wa, D., S. Rana, K. Bawa, K. Kunte, and Z. Wang. 2023. Roof of the world: home and border in the genomic era. Molecular Ecology Resources, 00:1–7.

Wang, Z., W. Da, C. S. Negi, P. L. Ghimire, K. Wangdi, P. K. Yadav, Z. Pubu, L. Lama, K. Yarpel, S. C. Maunsell, Y. Liu, K. Kunte, K. S. Bawa, D. Yang, and N. E. Pierce. 2022. Profiling, monitoring and conserving caterpillar fungus in the Himalayan region using anchored hybrid enrichment markers. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, 289:20212650.

Jain, A., K. Kunte, and E. L. Webb. 2016. Flower specialization of butterflies and impacts of non-native flower use in a transformed tropical landscape. Biological Conservation, 201:184–191. PDF file (712KB). 

Lasley, R. M. Jr., A. Jain, and K. Kunte. 2013. Alleviating poverty in India: Biodiversity's role. Science, 341:840-841. PDF file (259 KB).

Kumaraswamy, S., and K. Kunte. 2013. Integrating biodiversity and conservation with modern agricultural landscapes. Biodiversity and Conservation, 22:2735-2750. PDF file, (383 KB).

Kunte, K. 2008. The Wildlife (Protection) Act and conservation prioritization of butterflies of the Western Ghats, southwestern India. Current Science, 94:729-735. PDF file (132KB). Also featured in "In This Issue" (PDF file, 30KB) and on the cover. A PDF file of this article with an appendix giving the conservation values of all the Western Ghats butterfly species may be downloaded here (PDF file, 300KB).

Kunte, K. 2003. The Anamalai Hills and their significance to the diversity of butterflies of the Western Ghats. Report to Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) for World Heritage Biodiversity Programme (WHBP) of Ministry of Environment and Forests (Govt. of India), funded by a grant from United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Gadgil, M; K. P. Achar; A. Shetty; A. Ganguly; N. Harini; H. R. Bhat; J. Venkatesan; K. Krishna; K. Kunte; K. Moolya; L. Nandagiri; M. B. Nayak; R. J. R. Daniels; S. Joishy; S. Patgar; S. Gunaga; K. A. Subramanian; V. Suri; U. Ghate; Y. Gokhale (2000): Participatory Local Level Assessment of Life Support Systems: A Methodology Manual. Technical Report No. 78; Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.