Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger
Peril in the hills: Extreme weather a danger for Nilgiri ecosystem
WHY IN NEWS:
As conservationists and activists are fighting to protect forests and wilderness areas from being deforested, mined and diverted to “developmental” projects, there is another level of destruction happening to our last remaining wild spaces.
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Conservation of Biodiversity : Ecosystem
For PRELIMS it is important to go through the flora and fauna of Nilgiri .
For MAINS we have covered all the major points . Let us dive in !
- Thousands of trees lay dead and strewn around the western parts of the Nilgiri Plateau in southern India.
- Deep gashes scar ancient mountains, stand contrast to the lush green vegetation that they otherwise support.
- Climate change is causing widespread collapse of ecosystems.
- Global warming caused sea level rise and the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers.
- EXTREMITY : The steep increase in greenhouse gas concentrations has led to a surge in the frequency of extreme climate events.
- CYCLONES : In the last four years, this region has been affected by eight tropical cyclones.
- RAINFALL : The consecutive extreme rainfall events during the southwest monsoon periods of the last two years.
- ADVERSITY : These bouts of intense storms have been interspersed with periods of severe droughts, heatwaves, deficient and failed monsoons.
- BROKEN RECORDS : It broke the record for the highest rainfall in Tamil Nadu, by nearly twice the amount.
- HIGHEST RAINFALL : Over four days, the region experienced close to 2,500 mm rainfall.
- CONTRARY : Coimbatore, the nearest city in the plains of Tamil Nadu, receives 600 mm of rain annually.
- The Kundha watershed bore a deluge that was four times the annual rainfall amount, over just four days.
- The upper watershed of the Kundha river is a complex of several peaks above 2,400 m and broad deep valleys.
- Vast tracts of precious soil and shola ecology slipped away on either side of the watercourses.
- Washed away are the dark moss and wild balsam covered rocks that shaped the flow of every stream;
- Lost are the dwarf bamboo and forest kurinji (shrubs of blue flowers), ferns and orchids of the forest floor.
- In place of these are deep cuts of gauged out Earth, revealing the underlying lateritic soil and rocks.
(Left) An Aerides ringens orchid growing on a shola tree; (Right) Shola-grassland mosaic in the hills of the Nilgiri plateau, with the sholas growing in valleys and grasslands covering the slopes.
SOURCES : DownToEarth
SHOLA-GRASSLAND MOSAIC IN DANGER
- They are old-growth vegetation.
- These harbour several endemic and rare species of flora and fauna.
- These naturally confined forests are already some of the most endangered forest types.
- It is shocking that montane grassland stretches have also experienced large landslides.
- Together, the shola-grassland mosaic is most adept at absorbing high rainfall amounts.
- Over a year they can experience 2,500-5,500 mm of rainfall.
- This is needed to support the ecology upstream.
- The native tussock grasses are highly adapted to hold the soil strongly together on steep slopes.
- However, even this ecology is now giving way under pressure from extreme weather events.
- The shola-grassland mosaic ecology cannot withstand the tremendously high amounts of rainfall (over 2,400 mm) .
Nilgiri Ecosystem in Danger:Record-breaking rainfall and landslides have made deep cuts into the Earth revealing the underlying soil and rocks.
SOURCES : DownToEarth
- A predominant view was the indiscriminate construction of roads and proliferating concretisation of the hills.
- The actions invariably stem from places that have long lost their plant ecological cover — the global urban-industrial-agricultural complex.
DESTRUCTION BY DAMS AND TUNNELS
- The Kundha watershed region can be broadly divided into two — the higher slopes and the descending valleys.
- Shola-grassland ecology dominates the higher slopes .
- Non-native tree plantations dominating the descending valleys.
- The descending valleys are covered with several dams and hydroelectric structures.
- This includes several kilometres of underground tunnels and a capacity of 585 MW.
- This system is now getting two more dams to generate an additional 500 MW.
- It is disastrous to add more large dams and tunnels.
- Despite the consecutive years of extreme precipitation hardly any step has been taken to address ecological security.
- Building regulations stand to get eased and road expansion works continue in full swing.