Research contributions

Research contribution of Dr. Rao is unique in that socio-ecological systems approach has been developed and applied to analyze the causes and consequences of ecosystem degradation over a range of spatial and temporal scale and to develop sustainable approaches for restoration of ecosystem functions.

Major scientific contributions include:
Development of methodologies of integration of information derived from different techniques (viz., remote sensing, field and experimental ecology approaches and participatory appraisal/survey) for analyzing resource potential, dynamics, driving factors and ecological and economic implications in mountain regions:

 Methods of extrapolating plot-scale measurements, e.g., soil erosion, growing stock in forests, and dependence of crop-livestock mixed farming  (in terms of manure and fodder needs) on forests to landscape scale (watershed) and of evaluating ecological and economic implications of land use-land cover changes at farm, village and landscape scale were developed and applied in test areas.

Development and implementation of ecologically sound and socio-economically viable approaches to rehabilitation of degraded mountain ecosystems and conservation of protected areas: The scope of integration of traditional knowledge and conventional ecological science in resolution of environment- economic development conflicts was analyzed in selected areas. The interrelationships between plant productivity potential, regenerative strategies, nutrient uptake and use patterns, and soil biological processes were established as key factors determining secondary succession trajectories and associated environmental degradation/regeneration patterns and socio-economic costs/benefits. These studies provided insights for interventions for arresting weed invasion and restoration of degraded ecosystems. Rehabilitation technologies enabling improvement in soil fertility, carbon sequestration and direct benefits to local people on one hand and reduction in pressure on protected areas were identified and implemented on experimental scale.
Identification of ecological and economic strengths and weaknesses of traditional natural resource uses and management practices, and integration of traditional and conventional ecological knowledge: Traditional knowledge on uses and management of both domesticated and wild biodiversity in the Himalayan region was intensively surveyed and their ecological and economic potentials were evaluated. Sustainability of traditional agriculture and extractions from the wild were analyzed. Opportunities of integration of traditional and conventional ecological knowledge for overcoming weaknesses of traditional practices were identified. Untapped economic and ecological potential of indigenous food crops, medicinal species and forest species were reported.