The Western Ghats is in the news again. The Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, is one among the 595 places identified by scientists as areas where "extinctions are imminent."A new study reports that "extinctions of species are certain to occur unless immediate conservation action is taken" in these areas.
The study organised by Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), a partnership of more than 50 international and regional biodiversity conservation organisations, has identified such spots worldwide.It also identified 794 highly threatened species confined to single sites, which is more than three times larger than the number of species known to have become extinct in the past 500 years, said a communication from Conservation International.
Most of the sites are concentrated in biodiversity hotspots, with the largest concentration in the Tropical Andes, the Caribbean Islands, Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, Madagascar, Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, the report said. The study draws a comparison between the Western Ghats of south-western India and the highlands of south-western Sri Lanka, which are separated by 400 km. 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 km to 50 km inland. They cover an area of 160,000 sq. km. and stretch for 1,600 km from the country’s southern tip to Gujarat in the north, interrupted only by the 30 km Palghat Gap, the report observed.
The majority of AZE sites identified are in developing countries, with Mexico topping the list with more than 60 sites. There are 18 such sites in the United States and Australia. According to earlier reports, some regions of the Western Ghats, which cover at least five States, were being considered for inclusion in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Biodiversity site. The Western Ghats is also known for its rich biodiversity.
According to a report prepared by Ashoka Trust for Ecology and Environment, Bangalore, though the total area of the Ghats is less than three per cent of the land area of India, it contains more than 30 per cent of the plant, bird and mammal species found in India. The trust report had also identified numerous medicinal plants and important genetic resources such as the wild varieties of grain such as rice and barley and fruits such as mangoes, banana and jackfruit and spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmegs in the area.