Agroforestry Biodiversity

The Western Ghats is one of the world's eight hottest of the world’s biodiversity hotspots with more than 400 species of vertebrates that are endemic to the region. Many of these species live entirely outside protected areas and face tremendous challenges while sharing space with humans. However, agroforests such as plantations of coffee, pepper and spices are known to incorporate forest trees in their farming practice that have been found to provide important habitats for biodiversity.

The Agroforests Biodiversity and Conservation Programme at WCS-India focuses on understudied lesser fauna of the Western Ghats. We have largely been studying amphibian communities in agroforests such as tea, coffee, rubber and areca nut plantations. Why are we so excited about amphibians? Well, these little frogs are essential to the balance of ecosystems, acting as nature's pest control agents, and they can tell us more about soil and water health in agricultural areas.

Our research broadly tries to understand:

  1. How and where do different species of amphibians live and breed in agroforest lands?
  2. How can we manage our agricultural lands and waterways better to conserve amphibians?
  3. What effect is climate change having on breeding amphibians?


We do this research by conducting surveys of frogs in the monsoon and recording their calls in different agroforests and water bodies. By gathering crucial data on their ecology and by collaborating with plantation owners and other stakeholders, we aim to inform sustainable agroforest management strategies and make an impact on the conservation of amphibians.



Dr. Vishnupriya Sankararaman

Vishnupriya joined WCS-India in 2012 as a Research Assistant after completing her Master's in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from the National Centre for Biological Sciences and WCS-India. In 2022, she earned her PhD in Ecology from Penn State University, focusing on amphibian community structure in agroforest landscapes of the Western Ghats. Her expertise in quantitative ecology informs her use of modeling approaches such as community occupancy models and decision-making tools to promote biodiversity conservation alongside agricultural goals on private lands. Passionate about studying various species, including freshwater fishes, amphibians, and birds, she thrives in the challenging environments of the Western Ghats, finding joy in exploring its diverse landscapes despite the presence of leeches.


Preethi S

Preethi holds a Master's in Wildlife Biology from AVC College, Tamil Nadu. For her PG thesis, she worked on the Socio-ecological importance of the Nanmangalam Reserve Forest in Chennai. Over the last year, she has worked with BNHS on the Ringing and migration project at Point Calimere and Kanyakumari while showcasing the importance of alternative habitats, such as restored saltpans as viable spaces for migratory shorebirds to roost, feed and even breed. At WCS-India, she is working under the Western Ghats - Agroforests programme. She is an amateur wildlife photographer who loves travelling, baking, and making miniature sculptures. 


Raagini Muddaiah

Raagini is a Zoology graduate who obtained her Master of Science in Wildlife Biology from the University of Queensland, Australia. She worked as a Project Associate at Wildlife Institute of India, carrying out a census for snow leopards in Uttarakhand. She has previously worked on projects involving rodent and feral cat control in Australia. Taking forward her interest in promoting indigenous species diversity, her current work at WCS-India focuses on biodiversity in agroforests of the Western Ghats.


Recent Publications

  • Sankararaman, V., & Miller, D. a. W. (2023). Life‐history traits govern the habitat use of diverse amphibian assemblages in an agroforest landscape matrix. Animal ConservationLink
  • Sankararaman, V. (2022). A framework for amphibian habitat conservation across spatial scales using community occupancy modelsLink


Credits: Photos - Shashank Dalvi (cover), Manish Machaiah






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