Biosphere Reserves

Great Nicobar (1989)

The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve comprises a large portion of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems which encourages for developing sustainable practices for the core area and zone cooperation at varying degrees. The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve represents tropical forest biome and located in tropical Indo-Malayan Biotic Zone The Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve is represented by unique and threatened tropical evergreen forests including a host of forest systems, ranging from seasonal deciduous rain forests in the low hills, the tropical mountain forests and moist deciduous to scrub through dry deciduous ones.

The important faunal elements of the biosphere include the Nicobar Tree Shrew, Wild Boar, Crab-eating Macaque, Nicobar Civet, Nicobar Pigeon, Nicobar Megapode, Serpent, Eagle, Marine Turtle, Reticulated Python. Among birds Nicobar Sparrow Hawk, Nicobar Serpent Eagle, Blyth�s Parakeet and Nicobar Bulbul are endemic to Nicobar, whereas Andaman Woodpigeon, Andaman Cuckoo Dove, White bellied Mynah and Andaman Hawk Owl are endemic to Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The economically important species, including the traditionally used ones, could be categorised as timber, edibles, fodder, plants and animals with medicinal value, apart from the wild progenitors of cultivated crops and domestic animals. There are several timber yielding plants, fruit trees, food plants and a number of medicinal plants that have also been reported from the reserve.

This is the land of Shompen and Nicobarese tribes. The economy of the settlers is based on paddy, coconut, areca nut, spices, pine-apple. Rice is grown on subsitence basis. Fishing is done mainly by fishing folk who migrated from Andhra Pradesh and have now settled in Campbell Bay and Shashtri Nagar. Fishing in the creeks and bays is carried out using gill nets and hook and line.

Gulf of Mannar (1989)

The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, established in 1989, represents a marine national park in the State of Tamil Nadu. This reserve is the first of its kind in South East Asia. Located in the Indian part of the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka, it covers an area of about 10,500 km2 running south east and parallel to main coastline to a distance of 170 nautical miles. The Reserve comprises of 21 islands on the e astern coast of Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari. There are no hills on any of the 21 islands.

The people from the Roman empire visited east coast which included the biosphere reserve area, for procuring spices, textiles, precious stones, birds animals such as peacock and monkey in exchange of gold. The Tuticorin Port was well known as a salt trading centre for several centuries.

The Gulf of Mannar represents the world�s richest region from a marine biodiversity perspective. It is rich in estuaries, beaches, coral reefs, salt marshes, mangroves and many small island ecosystems. The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve is comprised of a core area containing 21 islands and the surrounding shallow marine habitats. e core is surrounded by 20 km wide and 160 km long buffer zone comprising of gulf waters in the south and inhabited coastline in the north. Though strictly protected, fishing activity does takes place in the core areas as the locals traditionally enjoy their fishing rights for their livelihood.

The buffer zone consists of both mainland and gulf waters. The important towns in the buffer zone are Kilakkarai, Rameshwaram, Tuticorin and Mandapam. The area around the buffer zone is transition zone which includes the areas of Appa Tivu, Talairi Tivu, the sea near Kilakarai and the immediate sea between the mainland and the islands. The transition zone is rich in prawn beds, pearl beds, chank beds etc. and serves as a genetic reservoir for the future fisheries activities.

The Gulf of Mannar biosphere Reserve is characterized by four specialized ecosystems, namely sea grass, coral reefs, mangroves and islands. Coral reefs provide shelter to a great variety of algae, sponges and fishes, etc. Apart from algae, the reefs also harbour boring sponges, molluscs, worms, echinoderms, common shrimps, fishes etc.

The vegetation of the islands is not spread uniformly and it generally consists of thorny shrubs including species of acacia, Capparis, Tamarix, espesia and Vitex. The mangroves found in this biosphere reserve are not tall trees, probably the height is curtailed owing to stray winds lashing here regularly and with greater velocity during monsoons and periodic cyclones.

Most of the islands of Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve have exuberant growth of mangroves on their shore line and offer an excellent ground for turtle nesting. The sea bottom of the inshore islands is carpeted with sea-grass beds which not only serve as feeding grounds for the endangered sea cows (Dugong-dugon), but also harbours most of the marine organisms. The fringing coral reefs that surround the islands are the most complex and delicate ecosystems which are often referred to as, �under sea tropical rain forests�, are a treasure house of marine ornamentals. Some of the islands like Krusadai Island is often referred to as �biologists paradise�.

The coral reefs of the reserve are fast deteriorating because of erosion and greater silt inflow from mainland, human activities such as limestone quarrying, coral collections, industrialization, urbanization and pollution.

Sundarban (1989)

Sundarban Biosphere Reserve (9630 km2) is the third largest biosphere reserve in India which got its status as Biosphere Reserve in 1989 from the Government of India. The core of the reserve, Sundarban National Park, was included in the World Heritage list in UNESCO�s World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2001. The core zone is represented by the Sundarban National Park and the Buffer Zone includes three wildlife sanctuaries viz. Sajnekhali, Lothian Island and Haliday Island, which makes Sundarban the largest mangrove forest in the world

The salient features of Sundarban Biosphere Reserves are:

  • Sundarban is the largest contiguous mangrove patch (along with Bangladesh) on globe.
  • Sundarban is the only mangrove in the world which is inhabited by tigers.
  • It represents the largest Mangal (mangrove) diversity on globe with 81 plant species.
  • It constitutes 63 % of Indian Mangrove and entire Eastern Indian Fishery is dependent on the input from Sundarban.
  • Sundarban saves Kolkata and its suburbs from the rage of annual high gale from the sea.

The reserve has been included in the World Heritage list in 1989, and included in UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserve.

The mangrove harbours rare and endangered mammals like: Panthera- tigiris. The rare birds include Ardaea golioth (Goliath heron), White bellied Sea Eagle, Hawk Eagle and Brakhiny Kite.

Simlipal (1994)

Simlipal Biosphere Reserve, located in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, is one of the first eight Biosphere Reserves designated under the Man and Biosphere Programme. Considering its biodiversity value and cultural richness, the reserve has been included in World Network of Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO.

Salient Features

Though Simlipal mainly represents moist deciduous forests, its large area, tableland and hilly terrain varying in altitude from 40 to 1168 m above the sea level bestow it an unparalleled array of habitat types including tropical evergreen, moist deciduous, dry deciduous with their numerous sub-types. All this make it a repository of diverse wild genes with wide adaptability to diverse climatic and ecological conditions.

The important rivers owing through biosphere reserves are Budhabalanga, Khedkei, Khairi, Bhandan, West Deo, Salanadi, Tel, East Deo, Sanjo and Palpala. Among the waterfalls of Simlipal, Joranda (150 m) and Barehipani (400 m) are important.

Simlipal is a predominantly poor tribal landscape with a heavy dependence on forest resources for their livelihood. They have been hunting traditionally for years in the Simlipal forests and this has become very much part of their culture. The major tribes include Bathudi, Bhumija, Kolho, Santhal, Ho, Munda, Gonds, and Pauri Bhuyans. They mostly depend on agriculture, daily wage earning, hunting and collection of forest products such as fuelwood, sal leaves, and seeds, honey, arrow root, lac, mahua-owers, mushrooms, sabai-grass etc. Two primi tive tribal groups Khadias and Mankadias are still food-gatherers.

Tigers and Asiatic Elephant are the two important species of the Simlipal Biosphere Reserve. Among mammals, Simlipal is known for its population of rare melanistic tigers, and good sex-ratio of Asian Elephants. The reserve is home to rare species like Chousingha, Wolf, Leopard Cat, Ruddy Mongoose, Giant Squirrel, and Mouse- deer. A rare colour morph of the Common Palm Civet is also found here. Among birds, Hornbills and Hill Myna, Collared Falconet and Jerdon�s Baza and Black Eagle are found here. Simlipal is one of the sites for �breed and release� programme of the Muggar Crocodile. The reserve also has a good population of King Cobra, Python and many interesting reptiles. Among various species of frogs, the Simlipal Bush Frog is of great interest.

The reserve is known for many plant species which are grouped under timber, fuel-wood, paper and pulp, fodder grass, dyes, gums/resins, essential oils, food and medicines.

Written by princy

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