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Biodiversity in sacred urban spaces of Bengaluru, India

ABSTRACT

Publication date: May 2018 Source:Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, Volume 32 Author(s): Madhumitha Jaganmohan, Lionel Sujay Vailshery, Seema Mundoli, Harini Nagendra

Urban green spaces provide critical social and ecological support for cities, but we know little about their diversity and composition in cities of the Global South. This is especially true of lesser known urban spaces such as sacred sites, which are of important cultural and biodiversity significance. We examine tree diversity and composition in sacred sites in Bengaluru, one of India’s fastest growing cities. We recorded 5504 trees from 93 species across 62 temples, churches, and Hindu, Christian and Muslim cemeteries in central areas of Bengaluru. Over half (52%) of the tree species were of native origin, a much higher proportion when compared to other green spaces in the city such as parks. Tree density in sacred sites was much higher than that in parks and informal settlements in Bengaluru. Temples and Hindu cemeteries contained the highest proportion of native species, with large numbers of Ficus benghalensis, a keystone sacred species. Trees in sacred spaces provide an important buffer against urban environmental stress in Indian cities, and serve as refuges for urban wildlife and biodiversity. We need greater information on these lesser known, but culturally significant alternate spaces. They play an important, though ignored role in the environmental sustainability of rapidly growing cities in the Global South.