Southwestern Ghats Moist Forests

 rel=
Bor Ghat Forest Western Ghats, India.
© WWF-Canon / Mauri RAUTKARI

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests; South Western Ghats montane rain forests.

The Southwestern Ghats occupy just 5% of India's land area, but they contain a large proportion of the country's plant and animal species. The country’s largest elephant population is found in the expanse of grasslands interspersed with stunted forests known locally as shola forests.

More than 4,000 species of flowering plants grow here, which is more than 25% of all the flowering plant species in the country.

Of the 112 amphibian species unique to India, 84 are found here. One reason for this abundance of life is the region's exceptionally high rainfall.
Size:
46,500 sq. km (18,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Western coast of Indian subcontinent

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
The levels of endemism in these forests are truly astounding. Many creatures, including the lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) and the endangered goat-antelope - Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius), are found only in these mountains and nowhere else on Earth.

Also found here are the Malabar civet (Viverra civettina), sloth bear (Ursus ursinus), tiger (Panthera tigris), and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

The endemic bird species of the region include the Malabar parakeet (Psittacula columboides), Malabar grey-hornbill (Ocyceros griseus), Nilgiri pipit (Anthus nilghiriensis), and the Nilgiri flycatcher (Eumyias albicaudata).

The majority of the 50 endemic plant genera are monotypic (consisting of only one type). Among the unusual trees are 13 species of dipterocarps - large, commercially and ecologically valuable tropical hardwood trees.

About 90 of India's 484 reptile species are endemic to these forests, including 8 endemic genera (Brachyophidium, Dravidogecko, Melanophidium, Plectrurus, Ristella, Salea, Teretrurus, and Xylophis).

The amphibian fauna exhibits even greater levels of endemism: almost 50% of India's 206 amphibian species are endemic to this ecoregion, among which are 6 endemic genera (Indotyphlus, Melanobatrachus, Nannobatrachus, Nyctibatrachus, Ranixalus, and Uraeotyphlus).

Featured Species

Dipterocarp means ‘2-winged seed’ in Greek. This describes their seeds well, although some have more than 2 wings.

Averaging 40 m in height, dipterocarps form characteristic cauliflower crowns towering over the canopy, and most species have similar looking leaves. Dipterocarps are favorite timber trees because their wood is very hard (they are often called tropical hard woods) and they grow straight and tall without any lower branches. Dipterocarps are self-pruning, and only spread out when they emerge from the canopy. They are also light and float easily down rivers. Dipterocarps include timber trees like meranti (Shorea acuminata) and chengal (Neobalanocarpus heimii).
Threats
India has the second largest human population in the world after China, and the quest for space and natural resources has led to increasing pressures on the Southwestern Ghats Moist Forests. Logging, agriculture, hydroelectric projects, livestock grazing, mining, road construction, and tourism and urban expansion are all taking a toll on the health of the region's natural communities.
WWF’s work
WWF has identified a number of issues which play a major role in biodiversity conservation in this landscape. One of the priority threats to wildlife conservation has been from poaching of wildlife to meet the demands of illegal trade.

WWF's new tiger conservation strategy and action plan - Conserving Tigers in the Wild: A WWF Framework Strategy for Action 2002-2010 - identifies 7 focal tiger landscapes. WWF has been working with local partners to strengthen anti-poaching efforts, and to reduce threats to the natural habitat, both in India and Nepal. Work is underway to reduce pressure on natural forests in order to reduce conflict.


Read more:

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required