Saturday, November 6, 2010

biodiversity hotspot is a biogeographic region with a significant reservoir of biodiversity that is under threat from humans.
The concept of biodiversity hotspots was originated by Norman Myers in two articles in “The Environmentalist” (1988 & 1990), revised after thorough analysis by Myers and others in “Hotspots: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Endangered Terrestrial Ecoregions”.
To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot on Myers 2000 edition of the hotspot-map, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 0.5% or 1,500 species of vascular plants as endemics, and it has to have lost at least 70% of its primary vegetation.Around the world, at least 25 areas qualify under this definition, with nine others possible candidates. These sites support nearly 60% of the world's plant, bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, with a very high share of endemic species.


The Western Ghats of southwestern India and the highlands of southwestern Sri Lanka, separated by 400 kilometers, are strikingly similar in their geology, climate and evolutionary history. The Western Ghats, known locally as the Sahyadri Hills, are formed by the Malabar Plains and the chain of mountains running parallel to India's western coast, about 30 to 50 kilometers inland. They cover an area of about 160,000 km² and stretch for 1,600 kilometers from the country's southern tip to Gujarat in the north, interrupted only by the 30 kilometers Palghat Gap.

Sri Lanka is a continental island separated from southern India by the 20-meter-deep Palk Strait. The island, some 67,654 km² in size, has been repeatedly connected with India between successive interglacials, most recently until about 7,000 years ago by a land bridge up to about 140 kilometers wide.

The Western Ghats mediates the rainfall regime of peninsular India by intercepting the southwestern monsoon winds. The western slopes of the mountains experience heavy annual rainfall (with 80 percent of it falling during the southwest monsoon from June to September), while the eastern slopes are drier; rainfall also decreases from south to north. Dozens of rivers originate in these mountains, including the peninsula’s three major eastward-flowing rivers. Thus, they are important sources of drinking water, irrigation, and power. The wide variation of rainfall patterns in the Western Ghats, coupled with the region’s complex geography, produces a great variety of vegetation types. These include scrub forests in the low-lying rainshadow areas and the plains, deciduous and tropical rainforests up to about 1,500 meters, and a unique mosaic of montane forests and rolling grasslands above 1,500 meters.

Precipitation across Sri Lanka is dependent on monsoonal winds, resulting in much of the island experiencing relatively low rainfall (less than 2,000 millimeters per year), except for the south-western “wet zone” quarter, where precipitation ranges to as much as 5,000 millimeters per year. While dry evergreen forests occupy almost the entirety of the “dry zone,” dipterocarp-dominated rainforests dominate the lowlands of the wet zone, and some 220 km² of tropical montane cloud forest still persist in the central hills, which rise to a maximum altitude of 2,524 meters.

Stretching in an arc over 3,000 kilometers of northern Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and the northwestern and northeastern states of India, the Himalaya hotspot includes all of the world’s mountain peaks higher than 8,000 meters. This includes the world’s highest mountain, Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) as well as several of the world’s deepest river gorges.
This immense mountain range, which covers nearly 750,000 km², has been divided into two regions: the Eastern Himalaya, which covers parts of Nepal, Bhutan, the northeast Indian states of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh, southeast Tibet (China), and northern Myanmar; and the Western Himalaya, covering the Kumaon-Garhwal, northwest Kashmir, and northern Pakistan. While these divisions are largely artificial, the deep defile carved by the antecedent Kali Gandaki River between the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains has been an effective dispersal barrier to many species.
The abrupt rise of the Himalayan Mountains from less than 500 meters to more than 8,000 meters results in a diversity of ecosystems that range, in only a couple of hundred kilometers, from alluvial grasslands (among the tallest in the world) and subtropical broadleaf forests along the foothills to temperate broadleaf forests in the mid hills, mixed conifer and conifer forests in the higher hills, and alpine meadows above the treeline


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