Scientists map religious forests and sacred sites
University of Oxford media release, 1 August 2011

OXFORD, UK: Oxfordscientists are aiming to produce a global map of land owned or revered by the world’s religious. Many of these “religious forests” and sacred sites contain some of the richest biodiversity in the world, including some of the highest numbers of threatened species. Dr Shonil Bhagwat said: “We urgently need to map this vast network of religious forests, sacred sites and other community-conserved areas to understand their role in biodiversity conservation. Such mapping can also allow the custodian communities, who have protected these sites for generations, to secure their legal status.” Dr Bhagwat has already carried out field studies in India, and his research publications show that in some regions there is one sacred forest for every 300 hectares, with the largest being over 100 hectares in size. In modern-day India, traditional conservation practices have survived alongside modern protected areas in 19 out of 28 states. Dr Bhagwat has found that in the state of Karnataka in southern India, there are threatened tree species in religious forests that are not found in formal protected areas. Read the release …

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