Vanishing sholas of Ponmudi
The vanishing sholas of Ponmudi near Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) in Kerala need urgent
protection. They have receded with increasing human activity at
Ponmudi. Remaining patches can be seen in the upper sanatorium
The withdrawal of sholas is often a gradual
process. The micro- climates that support sholas are gradually lost on
account of biotic interferences. Plants die out for want of
Sholas exist in a sort of
equilibrium with grasslands in high elevation forests of Kerala.
Moisture loss can result in shifting of this equilibrium in favour of
the grasses. These grasses may dry out in summer but would revive when
the rains come.
tree cover occurs in troughs, folds and depressions. Tree cover is
usually found in around20 per cent of the total area. The species are
specially adapted to the extreme climatic conditions. Trees are stunted
with spreading canopy,twiggy branchlets and leathery leaves.
Though adapted to the climate, loss of even a few members of the community
could be catastrophic. This leads to loss of moisture and failure to
maintain the micro climate. The result can be seen in the picture below.
(Two withered trees can be seen on the lower right. The patches of
shola seen on the left would once have extended to the right side.)
However, the sholas at Munnar in Kerala exhibit higher resilience
possibly because of larger distribution and lower temperatures in the
area. Average temperatures are known to be increasing in the area and
this could be catastrophic for the sholas.
The Government is planning a major
ecotourism project here. The sholas could be an attraction for any
visitor interested about knowing them.But they would not survive for
long without measures to protect them.Ecorestoration and regeneration
are next to impossible at Ponmudi.
The destruction and degradation
of forests here had started with the opening of plantations and
continued for decades. Tourism only contributed to further degradation.
(Vandalism by tourists on the upper sanatorium area is common). Very
careful planning will be needed if a sustainable ecotourism project is
to be implemented here.
|The last stand of shola forests
at Ponmudi in Kerala, India. |
December 30, 2005 |