The Nilgiris, forming a part of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats is home to moist, dry, evergreen and montane (shola) tropical forests. The Western Ghats, and the Nilgiris in particular, harbour a wealth of flora and fauna; much of which is restricted to the region. e.g. the endagered lion tailed macaque and the Nilgiri tahr. The Nilgiris forest ecosystem is, however, under pressures, e.g. from tea and coffee plantations, illegal, logging and commercial tree plantations with exotics initiated by the Forest Department. It also has a significant tribal population, dependent on natural resources for their livelihood; including the only surviving hunter-gatherers of the Indian sub-continent the Sholanaikans in the New Amarambalam region of Nilgiris. Given its distinct character, the Nilgiris forms part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (declared under the Man and Biosphere Programme of UNESCO).
Diversity of Forests
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve includes all the important forest types that are to be found in South India as well as some that are just peculiar to the belt such as Tropical Thorn Forest, Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests, Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests, Tropical Semi Evergreen Forests, Sub Tropical Broad Leaved Forests, Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests, Southern Montane Wet Temperate Forests, Southern Montane Wet Grasslands and Subtropical Hill Savannas.
The NBR is spread over a large within three states and varied climatic zones. The forest divisions are as follows:
|Coimbatore Division||Nilgiri South Division||Erode Division|
|Satyamangalam Division||Nilambur Division||Mudumalai Sanctuary|
|Wyanad Division||Palghat Division||Chamrajnagar Division|
|Project Tiger Bandipur||Mysore Division||Hunsur Division|
The large contiguous extent of forest has the highest density of protected areas in the entire nation for so small an area.
|No.||Name||District||Area (ha)||Notification||Perceived Threats|
|1||Mudumalai WLS & NP||Nilgiris||21776||27.01.1940||Exotics, anthropogenic pressures|
|2||Mukurthi NP||Nilgiris||7846||15.10.1991||Introduction of exotics, poaching|
|3||Wyanad||Wyanad||34444||03.05.1973||Degradation, Biotic pressures|
|4||Bandipur NP||Mysore||87420||15.03.1985||Uncontrolled tourism|
|5||Nagarhole NP||Mysore & Kodagu||64339||01.04.1983||Uncontrolled tourism|
|6||Silent Valley NP||Palakkad||8952||15.11.1984||Extraction of medicinal plants, removal of timber & poaching|
The forests of NBR are spread over a vast area and cover various ecotypes. The following pages explain the difference in forest types and its relevance to the culture and ecology of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
The overall classification of the different forest types are as follows
- Semi Evergreen
- Moist Deciduous
- Dry Deciduous
- Dry Scrub Woodland
People of the Biosphere Reserve
The Nilgiri Biosphere has a large number of indigenous communities, most of them forest dwellers and hunter gatherers. These distinct ethnic groups have small populations and live in geographical concentrations. It forms home to several adivasi communities, including the only surviving hunter gatherers of the Indian Sub-continent – the Cholanaikans in the New Amarambalam area. Apart from the Todas – a well known pastoral group in the upper Nilgiris, other groups include the Paniyas, Irulas, Kurumbas, Kuruchiyans, Mullukurumbas, Adiyans and Alyars. Its richness in terms of people is incomparable – history goes back a long way!. Their unique cultural and social characteristics sets them apart.