Although Bangalore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, and is famous internationally for its information technology industries, there is little documentation on the current status of, or historical changes in the city’s ecology and biodiversity. The city, which was once called India’s garden city and lake city, has witnessed the destruction of tens of thousands of trees and large expanses of wetlands and lakes in recent years for infrastructure and construction activities.
Our research finds that different parts of the city harbor very different kinds of trees and plants, with the biodiversity found on streets being very different from that in parks, or home gardens. The greenery in the city has been extensively shaped by human preferences for planting exotic species, with 80% of the trees in parks, for instance, being non-local in origin. Our research has documented the substantial environmental benefits provided by urban trees, which can reduce mid day temperatures as much as by 6° K, and reduce levels of air pollutants such as SO2 and suspended particulate matter by almost 50%.
Extensive work on city lakes has ranged from research investigating how lakes were managed and used in past and present times, to active restoration work with local communities and the government. Research on land cover change investigates how green areas within the city have adapted to urbanization, increasing in some areas (notably in small recreational city parks) and rapidly disappearing in many other parts of the city.
The overarching goal of our research program is to provide scientific evidence that can be used to tackle the environmental and ecological challenges posed by urbanization, in an effort to steer the trajectory of city development towards a more sustainable path.