Biosphere Reserves of India

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (1986)

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the first biosphere reserve designated by the government of India is a tropical forest biome that falls within the Western Ghats system of mountains. It is situated at the tri-junction of the three southern states (Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu). Dodabetta (2655 m) is the highest peak in this reserve. The very name Nilgiri with literary meaning �blue mountains� has originated from the spectacular appearance of blue flower clad mountains of Nilgiri within the state of Tamil Nadu. The blue flowers are borne by an endemic species, locally known as Kurinji which flowers gregariously once in 12 years and gives the wonderful blue cover to the mountains periodically. The Silent Valley is part of this biosphere reserve which is devoid of any altered land use practice. The western part is drained by the Chaliyar river system, while the eastern side is drained by the great Kaveri river system. Notable tributaries of the Kaveri River are Bhavani, Kabini, Moyar, Noyil, Nugu and Suvarnavati.

During the British Period, large areas of shola forests and grasslands in the eastern portion of the Nilgiri were cleared and the plantation of tea and coffee was started. By the 1940�s about 48 % of all the cultivated lands of the Nilgiri District were under tea and coffee plantations controlled by the European companies. During the post-independence period, emphasis on economic growth further aided the clearing of forests and expansion of cultivation.

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is known for its species richness, which houses about 3500 species of flowering plants, with nearly 1500 as endemic to the Western Ghats. e fauna consists of over 100 species of mammals, 550 species of birds, species of reptiles and amphibians, 300 species of butteries, and a large number of invertebrates and many more species that await discovery by scientists.

Descending from the upper Nilgiri plateau to the north, the vegetation turns through evergreen into deciduous, dry deciduous and grasslands. Moreover, this biosphere reserve has bamboo thickets, peat- bogs and paddy fields, along with extensively planted coffee, tea and spices plantation. The important fauna of the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve include Nilgiri- tahr, bison, gaur, Indian elephant, tiger, ruddy mongoose, small Indian civet, common palm civet, stripe-necked mongoose, leopard cat, giant squirrel, Nilgiri- langur, lion- tailed macaque, etc.

Forest res are common in the shola vegetation zone in dry deciduous and grassland zone. They are both accidental as well as deliberate. The annual re set o during the summer months for a better pasture in the ensuing monsoon is a notable threat to the biological diversity. Human settlements on the uplands have destroyed the sholas. Soil erosion is severe in the east and southeast areas of the Nilgiris where the monsoons are heavy. The Ooty Lake has been ruined accumulating garbage and disposal of sewage into it.

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (1988)

The Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, the second biosphere reserve designated by the Government of India, represents a unique combination of mountain ecosystems including traditional agro-systems, mixed temperate and sub-alpine forests, alpine meadows and glaciers. In recognition of its uniqueness, the reserve has been included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves by the UNESCO in 2004. Also, the Nanda Devi and the Valley of Flowers National Parks, forming core zone of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, have been inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO.

The core area of Nanda Devi which includes two National Parks (the National Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park), represents diverse oristic categories and richness in species with rarities of flora and fauna. The Valley of Flowers National Park is one of the most picturesque hanging alpine valleys in the West Himalaya that has been acknowledged by renowned mountaineers and botanists for its exquisite oral diversity. The vast buffer zone has the settlements of Indo-Mongoloid (Bhotiya tribe) and Indo-Aryan Group. The tribal community called Bhotiyas, in the reserve have adapted to an inter-linked production system of agriculture, animal husbandry and forest products.

The reserve has wide altitudinal range (1800-7817 mts). The unique topography, climate and soil support diverse ecosystems. Being located at the juncture of the Great Himalaya and Zanskar (Zaskar) Range, it has great diversity in flora and fauna. Some areas in Northern extreme represent Trans Himalayan cold desert characteristics. Nature has bestowed this area with most heterogeneous land formation ranging from low at and gentle valley areas and gentle moraines to steep slopes, unstable glaciers, stream bands, forest-meadow edge and snow bound areas. The Valley of Flowers is India�s first national park exclusively designated for the conservation of Himalayan flora.

The core zone of the reserves is completely protected. Nearly 80 % of its area is under glaciers, 10 % under forests, 5 under alpine meadows and 5 % waste land. Being associated with the Bliss-giving goddess Nanda Devi, the entire area enjoys sacred status, especially for Hindus. The Hindu shrine (Badrinath) and Sikh shrine (Hemkund) are the two major pilgrimage destinations within the reserve.

Besides the Government initiative, the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve area has exhibited important public movements. For example, in 1974, the proposed clear-cutting of trees in Reni prompted the world famous Chipko (hug the trees) Movement amongst inhabitants led by the local resident Gaura Devi. The movement spread across the region resulting in a halt on government efforts of harvesting trees. Similarly in 1998, the villagers of Neti Valley united for Jhapto Cheeno (swoop and grab) movement against the reserve management and the forest department restricting on mountaineering and grazing.

Nanda Devi Park has been opened up for regulated tourism from the year 2003. Yet another initiative which deserves mention was community based trail management and ecotourism activity in the Valley of Flowers National Tourism Zone.

Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in the Indian Himalaya sets a case having potential of becoming a potential mountain Biosphere Reserve to fulfil all the functions as conceptualized. While representing a classical case for absolute conservation of core zone, the participatory eco-development activities in buffer zone have resulted into increased co-operation between inhabitants and management. Unique bio-physical values of the reserve and its sensitivity towards changing climate and human interventions, however, calls for improved attention from different stakeholders.

Nokrek (1988)

Nokrek Biosphere Reserve (Garo Hills-Meghalaya) is the second smallest of the 18 Biosphere Reserves of India. It got its status in 1998 from the Government of India and the UNESCO Man and Biosphere World Network on 26th May, 2009. The presence of endemic Citrus indica Tanaka, a progenitor of Citrus species gives the reserve unique importance. Nokrek offers an excellent natural laboratory that has conserved many rare, endangered and endemic plant and animal species Nokrek falls in Myanmar monsoon forest biographic unit and represents biographic province (Meghalaya Hills). It has a wide altitude range (55- 1412 m). The vegetation of Nokrek Biosphere Reserve consists of evergreen, semi-evergreen, deciduous species, bamboo patches and grasslands including riverine forests. About 90 per cent of the National park area is covered by evergreen forests. The plant species include trees, bamboo, grass species, medicinal plants, climbers, orchids, and great variety of rare, endemic and threatened ground vegetation. The density of forest is very high along the ridges making the entire area dark even during day.

The area is considered an important gene pool for future hybridization programme for evolving disease resistant Citrus plants. The area also harbours many rare, endangered and endemic fauna species. Hoollock gibbons the only apes in India is considered as an endangered species. Some of the important animals include elephant, leopard, clouded leopard, tiger, rhesus macaque, pig-tailed macaque, giant squirrel, barking deer and a variety of butter

The main tribes living in and around the biosphere reserve are Garo, Koches, Robhas, Hajjons, Banias, etc. They grow maize rice squash, banana, areca nut, cashew nut, litchi, tea, coffee, pear, jack fruit, cinchona, orange, vegetables like tomato, ginger, potato, chillies, rubber, coconut, tapioca, etc.

In the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve many villagers have started raising plantations of horticulture species like oranges, areca nut, pear, tea, coffee, cardamom, rubber, jackfruit, etc.

Written by princy

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