Biosphere Reserves in India: A sphere to nourish the life-force!
Protection of the animals and plants is among the important challenges that is being faced by the mankind. The 21st century can emerge as an age of conservation and protection if human beings want to survive o Earth. Biosphere reserves happen to be the protected regions of the terrestrial, marine and coastal environments for the conservation of the diversity of species of plants and animals. The Biosphere Reserves in India have been established for the conservation of the natural habitats of plants and animals such as national parks and sanctuaries. The Government of India has identified 15 biosphere reserves in the country, with the aim to promote a balanced relationship between the biosphere and humans. Further, the reserves also aim at conserving all forms of life and also supervising and evaluating the changes in the eco systems.
Among the 15, the four Indian biosphere reserves namely, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve, the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve are among the international network.
The biosphere reserves in India can be classified into several types like the coasts, East Himalayas, West Himalayas, Ganges Delta, Western Ghats, Deccan Peninsula, Semi-Arid, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, etc. The first biosphere to be established in India was the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve created in the year 1986, in Tamil Nadu. The other biosphere reserves in India comprises
- Gulf of Mannar in Tamil Nadu
- Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve in Uttaranchal
- Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve in West Bengal
- Dihang-Dibang Biosphere Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh
- Simlipal Biosphere Reserve in Orissa
- Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve in Madhya Pradesh
- Achanakmar Amarkantak Biosphere Reserve in the state of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh
- Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve in Sikkim
- Manas Biosphere Reserve in Assam
- Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve in Kerala
- Nokrek Biosphere Reserve in Meghalaya
- Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve in Andaman & Nicobar Islands
- Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve in Assam
Biosphere Reserves in India: A sphere to nourish the life-force!
|Serial Number||Biosphere Reserve||Location||Date of Establishment||Area
|1||Achanakamar – Amarkantak||Parts of Dindori and Anupur districts in M.P.
Parts of Bilaspur districts in Chhattishgarh
|2||Dehang-Dibang||Part of Dibang and Siang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh
|3||Agasthyamalai||Peppara, Neyyar, and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuaries and their adjacent regions in Kerala
|4||Great Nicobar||Southern islands of Andaman and Nicobar
|5||Dibru-Saikhowa||Areas of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh Districts in Assam
|6||Kachchh||Part of Rajkot, Surendra Nagar, Kachchh, and Patan Civil Districts in Gujarat
|7||Gulf of Mannar||The Indian region of the Gulf of Mannar in between India and Sri Lanka
|8||Manas||Regions of Nalbari, Bongaigaon, Kokrajhar, Barpeta, Kamprup and Darang districts in Assam
|9||Khangchendzonga||Areas of Sikkim and Khangchendzonga
|10||Nilgiri||Areas of Nagarhole, Bandipur, Wayanad, Madumalai, Silent Valley and Siruvani hills, Nilambur,
|11||Nanda Devi||Areas of Pithoragarh, Chamoli, and Bageshwar districts in Uttarakhand
|12||Nokrek||Part of the Garo hills in Meghalaya
|13||Simlipal||Part of the Mayurbhanj district in Orissa
|14||Pachmarhi||Parts of Hoshangabad, Betul, and Chindwara districts in Madhya Pradesh
|15||Sunderbans||Part of the Ganga and Brahamaputra delta in West Bengal
Flora and Fauna of the Biosphere Reserves in India
- Dihang – Dibang Biosphere Reserve
Flora- The vegetation found here are the sub-tropical pine, sub-tropical broad-leaved, temperate conifer, temperate broad-leaved, alpine meadow (monton), sub-alphine woody shrub, bamboo brakes and grassland. Almost 1500 flowering plants can be found in this Biosphere Reserve. This includes orchid Vanda, Monotropa uniflora (Indian pipe) and Epipogium spp, Holboelli latifolia (Ribbonwood), Magnolia Compbellii (Charles raffill), Cyathea sp. and Coptis teeta (Indian goldthread).
Fauna- 45 species of insects, moths and butterflies are found here. The 195 species of birds that can be found here consist of pale-capped pigeon, Purple cochoa, pale blue flycatcher, Nepal cutia, Wedged billed wren-babbler, water pipit, isabeline wheatear, Japanese bush warbler etc. The Mammals comprise of snow leopard, golden cat, leopard, marbled cat, jungle cat and leopard cat, the endangered musk deer, serow, Himalayan black bear, gaur, sloth bear, red fox, deer, Assamese macaque, Indian wild dog, otter, squirrel and civet.
Threats- Not too many conservation problems are faced by this biosphere reserve barring poaching and the gathering of the numerous medicinal plants.
- Agasthiayamalai Biosphere Reserve
Flora- 30 new species of plants, 100 endemic species and 50 rare species of plants are found here such as Cardiospermum (Faux persilo), Gloriosa (Glory lily), Ceropegia (Taper vine), Dioscorea (Wild yam), Aristolochia (Snake root), Rauvolfia (Serpentine wood) and Smilax (Laurel leaf greenbrier).
Fauna- Threatened animals such as lion-tailed macaque, great pied hornbill, tigers and slender loris are found here.
Threats- The major threats in this reserve are the settlements that exist at the irrigation and hydel projects, cultivation of many plantation crops and increasing pilgrims to the area.
- Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve
Flora- The important species of trees here are Bishcofia javanica (Blume javanese bishopwood), Salix terasperma (India willow), Dillenia indica (Hondapara tree), Lagerstromia parviflora (Landia), Bombax ceibe (Red silk cotton tree), Anthoephalus cadamba (Indian seasde oak), Mesua ferrea (Indian rose chestnut), Artocarpus chaplasa (Taungpienne), Dalbergia sissoo (Sissoo) and Ficus spp. The orchids in the reserve include Pholidota articulate (Rattlesnake-tail orchid) and Rhynocostylis retusa (Blume saccolabium blumei Lindley). Grassess like Phragmities karka (Flute reed), Imperata cylindrica (Japanese blood grass), Aurondo donax (Giant reed) and Saccharum sp. are also found. Among the threatened medicinal plants at the Reserve, some are, Hydnocarpus kurizii (Chaulmoogra tree), Holarrhen antidysenterica (Conessi tree), Costus speciosus (Spiral ginger), Rauvalfia serpentine (serpentine wood), Dioscorea alata (Winged yam) and Dioscorea bulbifor (Air potato vine).
Fauna- Among the 36 species of mammals found at this biosphere reserve in India, some are the, clouded leopard, Royal Bengal tiger, leopard, sloth bear, golden jackal, jungle cat, Small Indian civet, dole, small Asian mongoose, common otter, Malayan giant squirrel, common mongoose, Pallas’ squirrel, common giant flying squirrel, Himalayan hoary bellied squirrel, Indian hare, Himalayan mole, ground shrew, pangolin, Gangetic dolphin, capped langur, hoolock gibbon, slow loris, Asian elephant, wild boar, sambar, hog deer, feral horses, barking deer and Asiatic water buffalo. 8 species of turtles like Asian leaf turtle, Malayan box turtle, brown roofed turtle, Assam roofed turtle, Indian soft-shell turtle, Indian tent turtle, spotted pond turtle, 2 species of monitor lizards, and 8 species of snakes, 62 species of fish are also here. 350 types of migratory and resident birds are also there such as spot billed pelican, white bellied pelican, crested grebe, white winged duck, lesser adjutant stork, Bayer’s pochard, Bengal florican, pale capped pigeon, greater spotted eagle, great pied hornbill, Jordon’s babbler, black breasted parrot bill, marsh babbler etc.
Threats- The annual floods are a major threat to the region. Siltation and grazing are also among the dangerous activities that are posing serious threats to the wildlife.
- Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve
Flora- There are 160 species of algae and 30 species of edible seaweeds. The mangrove vegetation here comprise of species such as Avicennia (Black mangrove), Ceriops (Tagal mangrove), Bruguieria (Large-leaved orange mangrove), Rhizophora (Red mangrove), and Lumnitzera (Sandy mangrove). This biosphere also has beautiful collection of coral reefs and marine animals and vegetation. Pearl oysters, edible bivalves, sea anemones, prawn species, ascidarians and the sea cow (Dugong dugon) can also be traced in this Reserve.
Fauna- The invertebrates include 280 species of sponges, 22 species of sea fans, 92 species of corals, 160 species of polychaetes, 17 species of crabs, 7 species of lobsters, 35 species of prawns, 17 species of cephalopods and 103 species of echinoderms.
Threats- The threats in this biosphere reserve of India, is the illegal coral mining that takes place for the cement industries. Apart from this, the random gathering of sea grass also poses dangers.
- Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve
Flora- This Indian biosphere reserve houses five species of Ficus, two species of Terminalia (Gallnut), Pinanga costata (Blume areca), Pandanus tinctoria (Screw pine), Ipomeoea spp. (Morning glory), Pterygota alata (Buddha’s coconut) Casuarina sp., (Beafwood), Albizia procera (White siris), Nypa fruticans (Nipa palm), Canarium euphyllum(Makok fan), Syzygium cumini(Indian blackberry), Calophyllum spp (Lagarto caspi), Manilkara littoralis (Sea mohwa), Eleocarpus sphaericus (Rudhrakhsa tree), Rhizophora spp., (Red mangrove), Cerips tagal (Tagal mangrove), Bruguiera spp., (Large-leaved orange mangrove), bamboo and canes.
Fauna- The reserve has a unique fauna that comprises Salt water crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Giant leather back turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), Crab eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Nicobar tree shrew, Nicobar megapode, Malayan box turtle, reticulated python and the Giant robber crab (Birgus lactro). Some of the other species consist of palm civet, fruit bat, Andaman wild boar, white bellied sea eagle, Nicobar pigeon, Nicobar serpent eagle, Nicobar parakeets, parakeets, water and monitor lizard.
Threats- The tribes that reside close to this reserve engage in hunting and collecting forest products. Further, poachers also visit the place from the neighboring countries in search of sea cucumber, turtles, crocodiles, and many more. These are among the serious dangers faced by the biosphere reserve.
- Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve
Fauna- The biosphere reserve is home to some of the endangered species of animals. Among these, some are Himalayan red panda, nayan or the Tibetan sheep, musk deer, bharal or blud sheep, marco polo sheep, Himalayan tahr, marmots and monkeys. The birds found here are monal, trogopan, blood pheasant, snow cock, snow partridge, Himalayan snow cock, Lammergier, Tibetan horned eagle, forest eagle owl, owl, falcons, eagles, hawks, snow and rock pigeon.
Threats- One of the major barriers to the conservation of this biosphere reserve is the frequent landslides that occur in the region, thereby leading to the loss of soil.
- Nandadevi Biosphere Reserve
Fauna- This Indian Biosphere Reserve has a good fauna, with about 18 species of mammals and about 200 birds. Of these some of the birds and mammals are endangered species. The mammals consist of Black bear, Brown bear, Snow leopard, Musk deer and Himalayan tahr. The species of bird include koklas western tragopan, pheasant, black eagle monal pheasant, steppe eagle, snow-cock, golden eagle, and bearded vulture.
Threats- The threats to this ecosystem are forest fires, gathering of the endangered plants for medicinal purposes, poaching and pilgrim visits.
- Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
Flora- The reserve has a very rich collection of flora. More than 3,300 species of plants are located here. The species of plants include Baeolepis (Dogbanes), Arodina, Calacanthus (Carolina allspice) and Wagatea (False Thorn) sandal, jackfruit, jamun, ironwood, Indian rosewood, hill gooseberry, rhododendron, etc. The 175 species of orchids include Liparis (Lily-leaved), Spiranthes (October ladies-tresses), Vanda, Bulbophyllum (Medusa’s head orchid) and Thrixspermum (Chi-tou wind orchid). Black pepper climbers and abundant herbs also thrive here.
Fauna- The fauna of the Reserve houses more than 100 species of mammals, 80 species of reptiles and amphibians, 350 species of birds, 31 amphibians, 39 species of fish, 60 species of reptiles, 300 species of butterflies and numerous invertebrates. Fresh water fishes like Hypselobarbus dubuis, Danio neilgheriensis (Pearl danio) and Puntius bovanicus are also found here. The other animals of the region are Nilgiri langur, slender loris, the Nilgiri tahr, blackbuck, gaur, Indian elephant, tiger and marten.
Threats- Tribal groups residing in this region like the Kotas, Irullas, Todas, Kurumbas, Adiyans, Edanadan Chettis, Paniyas, Cholanaickens, Malayan, Allar, live on hunting, food gathering and fishing. This is one of the reasons of threat to the reserve.
- Manas Biosphere Reserve
Fauna- In this biosphere reserve, there are about 327 birds, 2 reptiles, 61 species of mammals, 7 amphibian and 54 species of fishes. The rare species of animals found here are pigmy hog, Hispid hare and golden langur. Other species include elephants, tigers, wild buffalo, rhinoceros, swamp deer, wild boar, sambhar and hog deer. The migratory birds visiting this reserve in the winters are riverchats, forktails, cormorants and Ruddy Shell-Duck. Indian Hornbills and Pied Hornbills are also found in the reserve.
Threats- The people of the Bodo community are dependent on the forest resources for timber, firewood, fodder, wild vegetables, thatch, and fruit, and fish. Soil erosion, trans-border management and weed infestation are among the other threats to this biosphere reserve.
- Nokrek Biosphere Reserve
Flora- The Nokrek Biosphere Reserve consists of moist deciduous, evergreen, semi-evergreen, bamboo thickets, grasses and riverine forests. Important species of plants include Shorea assamica (White meranti), Bambusa pallida (Bamboo), Altingia excelsa (Grand rasamala), Amoora wallichi (Lali) and Michelia insignis (Chempaka).
Fauna- A diverse variety of animals is supported by the Nokrek Reserve such as binturong, stump tailed macaque, hoolock gibbon, Himalayan black bear, pig tailed macaque, tiger, elephant, leopard, Giant flying squirrel, etc.
Threats- Extensive cultivation by the villagers, loss of top soil and soil erosion are the main causes of danger in this area.
- Similipal Biosphere Reserve
Flora- More than 1170 species of flowering plant are found in this Reserve. The reserve is replete with 94 species of orchids out of which 8 species are vulnerable, 8 species are endangered and 34 species are rare. The major species of plants are Dalbergea sisso (Sissoo), Michelia champa (Champak), Terminalia arjuna (Myrobalan), Shorea robusta (Sal tree) and Madhuca sp (India butter tree).
Fauna- There are about 29 species of reptiles, 12 species of amphibians, 260 species of birds and 42 species of mammals. Animals range from tiger, leopard, elephant, fishing cat, rudy mongoose, four horned antelope, to red breasted falconets and grey headed fishing eagle.
Threats- The major threat to this biosphere reserve happens to be the dependency rate of the numerous tribal people for livelihood. Other threats include firewood collection, forest fire, poaching and akhand shikar.
- Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve
Flora- The major species of this Indian Biosphere Reserve include teak and sal. 83 species of Bryophyte, 30 species of Thallophytes, 71 species of pteridophytes, 56 genera, and 7 species of Gymnosperms are found here. The Pachmarhi plateau serves as a paradise for the botanists. Species like Sandbar willow, Whisk Fern, stalked adder’s tongue fern and Tree fern can be found in this reserve.
Fauna- Here at the Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, there are about 254 species of birds, 50 species of mammals and 30 species of reptiles. The reserve is home to many raptors such as serpent eagle, honey buzzard and black eagle. The birds in the region include Malabar pied hornbill, red jungle fowl, Malabar whistling thrush and paradise flycatcher. The reptiles comprise of geckos, skinks, etc. Other animals include Indian giant squirrel, rhesus monkey and flying squirrels.
Threats- The major threats to the reserve are gathering of endemic, rare and medicinal plants, poaching, proliferation of lantana etc.
- Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve
Flora- The prominent ecosystem of the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve includes the Tropical humid forest and the mangroves. The Mangrove species include Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Avicennia alba, Ceriops tagal and Rhizophora apiculata. 25 species of mangroves, 120 species of algae and 124 species of Angiosperms are found here. The rare species of plants found here are Nypa fruiticans (Nipah palm), Sonneratia alba (Mangrove apple), Acanthus volubilis (Acanthe molle), Aegialtis rotundifolia (Nilar ixora manila), Soneratia casaeolaris (Crabapple mangrove), Heritiera fomes (Sundari), Xylocarpus granatum (Cannonball mangrove), Ceriops tagal (Tagal mangrove) and Lumnitzera recemosa (Sandy mangrove).
Fauna- Home to a rich variety of fauna, the reserve includes 40 species of mammals, 163 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, 67 species of crabs, 8 species of prawns, 165 species fish and 23 species of molluscs. The diverse species of animals consist of Saltwater crocodile (Crocodilus porasus), Tiger (Pathera tigris tigris), Indian Leopard cat (Felis bengalesis), Fishing Cat (Felis viverrina), Yellow monitor (Varanus flaveseens), Hawksbill sea turtle (Ertmochetys imbricate), Olive ridley sea turtle (Lipidochelys olivacea) and Green sea turtle (Chelonia myrdus).
Threats- People living in this biosphere reserve largely depends on the forest and its resources. Aquaculture practices, excess fishing and harvesting of timber and firewood are among the major threats to the reserve.