Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

Written by Balachander T

The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (5520 sq. km) in Southern India is an important region in the overall bio-diversity ranking in South Asia. It is home to several indigenous communities (>10 diverse ethnic groups) and the spread of flora and fauna available (several endemic species) in this mountain zone. The Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu is a central focal point – termed as the manipulation zone in the overall bio-region. There are two large protected areas within the district – The Mukurti National Park, a high altitude grasslands and shola ecosystem and the Mudumalai Sanctuary in the lower reaches with dry deciduous to semi tropical forests. The rest of the district is predominantly a combination of the plantation industry, agriculture, tourism and tribal populations which occupy select niches in different altitudinal zones of this mountain system. The Nilgiris, forming a part of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats is home to moist, dry, evergreen and montane (shola) tropical forests. The Western Ghats, and the Nilgiris in particular, harbour a wealth of flora and fauna; much of which is restricted to the region. e.g. the endangered lion tailed macaque and the Nilgiri tahr. The Nilgiris forest ecosystem is, however, under pressures, e.g. from tea and coffee plantations, illegal, logging and commercial tree plantations with exotics initiated by the Forest Department. It also has a significant tribal population, dependent on natural resources for their livelihood; including the only surviving hunter-gatherers of the Indian sub-continent the Cholanaickens in the New Amarambalam region of Nilgiris. Given its distinct character, the Nilgiris forms part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (declared under the Man and Biosphere Programme of UNESCO).

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