Cultural Drivers of Reforestation in Tropical Forest Groves of the Western Ghats of India

Cultural Drivers of Reforestation in Tropical Forest Groves of the Western Ghats of India


This paper looks at sacred forest groves in the Western Ghats of India, examining their socio-ecological origins. The study asks whether the groves are remnants of former continuous forest or patches of regenerated vegetation. The study also asks about the impact of surrounding vegetation on the composition of the sacred groves. Finally, the study focuses on the social and cultural drivers of forest recovery in the groves, including land tenure and religious beliefs.

research goals & methods

The study uses paleoecological analysis, historical literature, and Wallace’s 1956 framework of ‘cultural revitalization’ to gain a better understanding of the drivers of reforestation in the groves.

conclusions & takeaways

The study found that the groves were not remnants of former forest but patches of regeneration on lands that were not forest, dating to about 400 years ago. These patches were heavily influenced by the surrounding landscape, especially in human-dominated landscapes such as agricultural areas. Lastly, the study found that cultural factors played an important role in driving the reforestation of the groves. These factors include taboos, political shifts in land tenure arrangements, and societal awareness of deforestation impacts. The study calls for greater understanding of social factors in conservation decisions as well as an incorporation of forest patches into landscape-scale forest recovery plans.


Bhagwat SA, Nogué S, Willis KJ. Cultural drivers of reforestation in tropical forest groves of the Western Ghats of India. Forest Ecology and Management. 2014;329:393–400. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2013.11.017.


  • University of Oxford
  • University of Bergen