Sacred groves are among one of the best practices of biodiversity conservation used by the ethnic societies which are deeply associated with the religion and culture that significantly nurture nature. As these practices play a vital role in conserving socio-ecologically important species and protect threatened flora and fauna from extinction in different ecological zones. In northeast India, sacred groves are well connected with culture and society through religious beliefs of the population and their associated myths. Sacred groves cover a total of > 40,000 hectares of natural forest area in the five northeastern states of India. These forests house some of the most important and highly threatened species of plants. Wild relatives of present-day cultivated plants are found in these forests and hence act as the gene pool for these species. Social transformation and urbanization have a large impact on the structure and health of these forests and responsible for their destruction. Developmental projects like railways, roads, hydro-electric projects etc. have reportedly destroyed many groves in the past. Due to social transformation, the rate of activities like grazing, encroachment, cutting and collection of fuel wood, fruits and leaves has been increasing and posing a threat to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function in the future. Creating awareness about the social and ecological benefits of maintaining sacred groves among local people, especially youth, can help in reviving these practices and conserving them as a natural heritage for future generations is the need of the hour.
Northeast, Natural beliefs, Sacred groves, Social Transformation, Threats
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