South Western Ghats montane rain forests


South Western Ghats montane rain forests

The South Western Ghats montane rain forests are an ecoregion of southern India, covering the southern portion of the Western Ghats range in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, at elevations over 1000 meters. They are cooler and wetter than the lower-elevation South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests, which surround the montane rain forests.

etting

The ecoregion is the most species-rich in peninsular India, and is home to numerous endemic species. It covers an area of 22,600 square kilometers (8,700 square miles). It is estimated that two-thirds of the original forests have been cleared, and only 3,200 square kilometers, or 15% of the intact area, is protected.

The southern portion of the Western Ghats contains the highest peaks in the range, notably Anai Mudi in Kerala, at 2695 meters elevation. The Ghats intercept the moisture-laden monsoon winds off the Arabian Sea, and the average annual precipitation exceeds 2,800 mm. The northeast monsoon from October to November supplements the June to September southwest monsoon. The South Western Ghats are the wettest portion of peninsular India, and are surrounded by drier ecoregions to the east and north.

Flora

The cool and moist climate, high rainfall, and variety of microclimates brought about by differences in elevation and exposure supports lush and diverse forests; 35% of the plant species are endemic to the ecoregion. Moist evergreen montane forests are the predominant habitat type. The montane evergreen forests support a great diversity of species. The trees generally form a canopy at 15 to 20 m, and the forests are multistoried and rich in epiphytes, especially orchids. Characteristic canopy trees are "Cullenia exarillata", "Mesua ferrea", "Palaquium ellipticum", "Gluta travancorica", and "Nageia wallichiana". "Nageia" is a podocarp conifer with origins in the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, of which India was formerly part, and a number of other plants in the ecoregion have Gondwana origins. Other evergreen tree species of the montane forest include "Calophyllum austroindicum", "Garcinia rubro-echinata", "Garcinia travancorica", "Diospyros barberi", "Memecylon subramanii", "Memecylon gracile", "Goniothalamus rhyncantherus", and "Vernonia travancorica".

The other major habitat type in the ecoregion is the "shola"-grassland complex, found at elevations of 1,900 to 2,220 m. "Shola" is a stunted forest, with an upper story of small trees, generally "Pygeum gardneri", "Schefflera racemosa", "Linociera ramiflora", "Syzygium spp.", "Rhododendron nilgiricum", "Mahonia nepalensis", "Elaeocarpus recurvatus", "Ilex denticulata", "Michelia nilagirica", "Actinodaphne bourdellonii", and "Litsea wightiana". Below the upper story is a low understory and a dense shrub layer. These "shola" forests are interspersed with montane grasslands, characterized by frost- and fire-resistant grass species like "Chrysopogon zeylanicus", "Cymbopogon flexuosus", "Arundinella ciliata", "Arundinella mesophylla", "Arundinella tuberculata", "Themeda tremula", and "Sehima nervosum".

Fauna

The ecoregion also supports a rich fauna, which is also high in endemism: of 78 mammal species, 10 are endemic, along with 42% of the fishes, 48% of the reptiles, and 75% of the amphibians. Of 309 bird species, 13 are endemic.

The ecoregion supports India's largest elephant population, along with populations of threatened tiger "(Panthera tigris)", leopard "(Panthera pardus)", sloth bear "(Melursus ursinus)", gaur "(Bos gaurus)", and wild dog "(Cuon alpinus)". The rare and endemic Nilgiri tahr "(Hemitragus hylocrius)" is limited to a 400 km band of "shola"-grassland mosaic, from the Nilgiri Hills in the north to the Ashambu Hills in the south. The lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) and Nilgiri macaque (Semnopithecus johnii) are endangered endemic primate species.

90 of India's 484 reptile species are endemic to the ecoregion, with eight endemic genera ("Brachyophidium, Dravidogecko, Melanophidium, Plectrurus, Ristella, Salea, Teretrurus", and "Xylophis"). Almost 50% of India's 206 amphibian species are endemic to the ecoregion, with six endemic genera ("Indotyphlus, Melanobatrachus, Nannobatrachus, Nyctibatrachus, Ranixalus", and "Uraeotyphlus").

Protected areas

As of 1997, 13 protected areas had been designated, covering an area of over 3,200 km².

* Pushpagiri (60 km²)
* Talakaveri 250 km²)
* Brahmagiri (190 km²)
* Aralam (50 km²)
* Karimpuzha National Park (230 km²)
* Mukurthi National Park, Tamilnadu (60 km²)
* Silent Valley National Park, Kerala (110 km²)
* Meghamalai, Tamilnadu (120 km²)
* Periyar National Park, Kerala (540 km²)
* Anamalai (600 km²)
* Eravikulam National Park, Kerala (97 km²)
* Parambikulam (260 km²)
* Idukki (80 km²)
* Shenduruny (300 km²)
* Kalakad Mundanthurai Tamilnadu(290 km²)
* Peppara (40 km²)

ee also

* Malabar Coast moist forests
* South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests

External links

* [http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/im/im0151_full.html South Western Ghats montane rain forests (World Wildlife Fund)]

References

Wikramanayake, Eric; Eric Dinerstein; Colby J. Loucks; et al. (2002). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: a Conservation Assessment." Island Press; Washington, DC.


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