Railroad impacts on wetland habitat: GIS and modeling approach
Deepor Beel is one of the most important wetlands in the Brahmaputra Valley of lower Assam in India and is representative of the wetlands found within the Burma Monsoon Forest biogeography region. Deepor Beel is a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention and is contiguous with Rani and Garbhanga reserved forests. These forests house endangered Asiatic elephants (Elephas maximus) in addition to other birds and animals. The elephants depend on the wetland for water and food. Indian Railways con-structed Assam state’s southern railroad through the wetland in 2001. The railroad has fragmented the wetland into at least two subsystems and has segregated the wetland-forest ecosystem. Accelerated degradation of elephant habitat has been observed in the wetland since the railroad was constructed. Further, a number of elephants have died because of collisions with rail traffic. This study quantifies the impacts of the present railroad on the Deepor Beel ecosystem with special reference to Asiatic elephants. Geographic information systems (GIS) and mathematical models are used in impact quantification. The tools developed in this study can be used in analyses of similar ecosys-tems around the world.
wetland, habitat degradation, Railroad impacts