- South Western Ghats montane rain forests
The South Western Ghats montane rain forests are an
ecoregionof southern India, covering the southern portion of the Western Ghatsrange in Keralaand 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.
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 Mudiin Kerala, at 2695 meters elevation. The Ghats intercept the moisture-laden monsoonwinds 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.
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
montaneforests are the predominant habitattype. 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 " Culleniaexarillata", " Mesua ferrea", " Palaquiumellipticum", " Glutatravancorica", and " Nageiawallichiana". "Nageia" is a podocarp coniferwith 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 " Calophyllumaustroindicum", " Garciniarubro-echinata", "Garcinia travancorica", " Diospyrosbarberi", " Memecylonsubramanii", "Memecylon gracile", " Goniothalamusrhyncantherus", and " Vernoniatravancorica".
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", " Scheffleraracemosa", " Linocieraramiflora", " Syzygiumspp.", " Rhododendronnilgiricum", " Mahonianepalensis", " Elaeocarpusrecurvatus", " Ilexdenticulata", " Michelianilagirica", " Actinodaphnebourdellonii", and " Litseawightiana". 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 grassspecies like "Chrysopogon zeylanicus", "Cymbopogon flexuosus", "Arundinella ciliata", "Arundinella mesophylla", "Arundinella tuberculata", "Themeda tremula", and "Sehima nervosum".
The ecoregion also supports a rich fauna, which is also high in endemism: of 78
mammalspecies, 10 are endemic, along with 42% of the fishes, 48% of the reptiles, and 75% of the amphibians. Of 309 birdspecies, 13 are endemic.
The ecoregion supports India's largest
elephantpopulation, 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 Hillsin the north to the Ashambu Hillsin the south. The lion-tailed macaque(Macaca silenus) and Nilgiri macaque (Semnopithecus johnii) are endangered endemic primatespecies.
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").
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)
Eravikulam National Park, Kerala (97 km²)
* Parambikulam (260 km²)
* Idukki (80 km²)
* Shenduruny (300 km²)
* Kalakad Mundanthurai Tamilnadu(290 km²)
* Peppara (40 km²)
Malabar Coast moist forests
South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests
* [http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/im/im0151_full.html South Western Ghats montane rain forests (World Wildlife Fund)]
Wikramanayake, Eric; Eric Dinerstein; Colby J. Loucks; et al. (2002). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: a Conservation Assessment." Island Press;
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