Impacts of Pollution on Tropical Montane and Temperate Forests of South Asia: Preliminary Studies by Postgraduate Students in India and Sri Lanka

Project Objective
The objective of the project is to engage postgraduate students of the TERI School of Advanced Studies in India, and the University of Peradeniya and University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Sri Lanka to undertake preliminary research in temperate forests of the Himalayas, India and the tropical montane forests of Sri Lanka on the impacts of pollution on biodiversity.

The impacts of atmospheric pollution now reach distant locations and are not restricted to the vicinity of the polluting sources. Pollutants of fine particulate matter also get transported to remote forest ecosystems, impacting upon their constituent biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide. The loss of these services are less researched with limited quantification, hence they do not surface in policy and decision-making.

Research through remote sensing has substantiated South Asia as a global hotspot of pollution. In addition to carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases like oxides of sulfur and nitrogen are having a detrimental impact on species sensitive to pollution. This is altering forest biogeochemistry, nutrient cycling, and causing tissue damage which impacts physiological processes like photosynthesis. The functioning of ecosystems has yet to be understood in greater depth. Detrimental impacts on their functioning are not always readily visible and may take a long time to manifest themselves.

The recent rise of pollution due to nitrogen in the form of nitrates and ammonia in the atmosphere, in South Asia in particular due to excessive usage of fertilisers, livestock and vehicular emissions has emerged as a global issue, with the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), in its General Assembly in 2019 in the Colombo Declaration, has urged the global community to reduce the wastage due to nitrogen pollution by half.

Project leader
TERI School of Advanced Studies

Project members
University of Peradeniya
University of Sri Jayewardenepura