Eco-tourism and Bio-diversity conservation-“A case study of Horton Plains”

Much debate and confusion has surrounded the terms ‘nature based tourism’ and ‘ecotourism’. Ecotourism is often used interchangeably with other terms such as nature based tourism, sustainable tourism, green tourism, responsible tourism and soft tourism. While some elements of these different tourism types are similar, the terms are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive.

On the other hand much attention has been paid to the question of what constitutes Eco-tourism. There are numerous concepts and definitions in exist. Ecotourism was first defined by Ceballos-Lascurain in 1987 . The term eco-tourism has been defined in Sri Lanka as responsible travel to natural and cultural areas that conserve the environment and improve the well-being of local communities.
The main objective of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is also highlights the conservation of biological diversity whilst the other objectives of the Convention talks about the sustainable use of its compo nents and fare and equitable share of the benefit sharing etc., at the same time the main components of eco tourism is also highlights contribution to conservation of biodiversity as its first component.

The CBD also talks about the Use, Study and Save concepts and it is implied based on the definition that the Eco tourism is the only tourism that involves all three components. Therefore, it is clear that the Eco-tourism has a direct link in conserving the Bio-diversity both in terms of theoretical and practical aspect.

This paper discusses the eco-tourism and the conservation of bio-diversity in Horton Plains National Park. About 432 visitors were interviewed in obtaining the view of the promotion of eco-tourism as a tool for the conservation and the importance of bio-diversity. 55% of the total surveyed visitors are mainly visiting the park with the purpose of nature tourism.

Horton Plains consists with different eco-systems through its uniqueness within the Park and this will be a rare experience and opportunity for eco-tourists. Unique status of biological diversity is an important ecological service of Horton Plains. Endemism and rareness of species of these resources add positive value to the biologi cal diversity of the National Park. However, roadside fires, unauthorized parking of vehicles, off-road driving and walking are factors that are highly contributing to the destruction of habitats. The forest die-back is another major problem and the preliminary studies indicated that 22 species of plants are affected by die-back .Over visitation contributes much towards the destruction of Park’s bio-diversity.

Although, one can visits different ecosystems through HNP’s uniqueness which will be a rare opportunity for eco-tourists it is important that the nature is conserved for the future. As any other natural resources, Horton Plains should also have its own carrying capacity that can sustain the uniqueness of its resources. Therefore, the conservation of bio-diversity must be given priority through the promotion of ecotourism to ensure the sustainability of the tourism in the park and also to conserve the bio-diversity instead of expanding the mass tourism in the park.
Nazeema, A.LS, Kotagama, S.W
Department of Zoology, University of Colombo

Species diversity and abundance of butterfly fauna in four selected habitats in Sinharaja man and biosphere (MAB) reserve

Sri Lanka possesses a rich diversity of butterflies compared to other countries in the region, but studies on this interesting taxon remain limited. The present study on butterflies at Sinharaja forest was carried out as an effort of filling this gap to some extent. Data was collected from four different habitat types i.e. primary forest, second ary forest, disturbed areas and the Pinus plantation in the North-western sector of the Sinharaja forest close to Kudawa. Two study plots were established in each habitat type, and the butterfly sampling was carried out along four transects (100m × 5m) in each plot; two inside the relevant habitat and other two along the edge of the habitat. Sampling was conducted from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. daily from mid April to end of June 2007. Shannon index (H′) was used to compare the butterfly species diversity. 124 butterfly species belonging to 10 families were recorded including 10 endemic species and 32 nationally threatened species. Rediscovery of the Brown Onyx (Horaga albimacula) after 80 years, and the Banded Redeye (Gangara lebadea subfasciata) and Lesser Gull (Cepora nadina) after 65 years are significant findings of the present study. Results reflect a differ ence in butterfly diversity and abundance between four habitats. 25, 37, 56 and 47 butterfly species were re corded respectively from primary, secondary, disturbed and Pinus forest habitats. The secondary forest was recorded to have the highest species diversity (H′ = 2.169) while primary forest show the least (H′ = 1.917). The primary forest and disturbed area, which had a contrasting difference in the butterfly species richness do not show a significant difference in their butterfly species diversity (H′= 1.917 and H′= 1.920 respectively). Butterflies of family Satyridae and Nymphalidae were the most and second abundant in all habitats, while different species of each family dominated different habitats. Satyrids were more abundant inte rior in forest habitats, while Nymphalids were more common along habitat edges.

R. M. Sarath Rajapakshe, M. Sandun. J. Perera and Enoka P. Kudawidanage

Edge effects on small mammal assemblages in Sri Lankan rainforests

This project was carried out with the objective of investigating edge effects on species richness and abundance of small mammals in rainforests of Sri Lanka. Core and edge habitats of twelve rainforests were live-trapped for five consecutive nights each, during 2006 and 2007. Habitat assessments were also carried out to ascertain differences in microhabitat features between core and edge habitats. A total of nine species (seven rodents and two shrews) were captured during the survey (two species were from additional trapping sessions). Species richness was marginally higher in core areas (six species) than at forest edges (five species). No marked differ ences were also evident in total abundance with 91 individuals being captured from core habitats and 89 from forest edges. With regard to habitat utilization patterns of the small mammals, of the four endemics, Mus mayori and Crocidura miya used both core and edge habitats whilst Funambulus layardi and Suncus zeylanicus were confined to core areas of the forest. Of the non-endemics, F. sublineatus was confined to the forest, Vandeleuria oleracea and M. booduga used only edge habitats and F. palmarum and Rattus ratttus were found in both core and edge habitats. Interestingly, a remarkable disparity was evident between the abundance of the endemics and non-endemics. The number of endemics was much higher in core areas (55 individuals) than in forest edges (34 individuals). A reverse trend was noted for the non-endemics. The microhabitat conditions within the forest were different to that in forest edges. Core areas were generally characterized by greater numbers of large trees and seedlings, higher humidity and cooler temperatures. These findings indicate that although rain forest fragmenta tion and the resultant changes at forest edges do not have a great impact on the overall diversity of small mammals and the endemics would suffer greater adverse consequences than the non-endemics.

M R Wijesinghe
Department of Zoology, University of Colombo

Biodiversity of pteridophytes at Mulawella Mountain of the Sinharaja Forest

Pteridophyte flora represent an important component of natural vegetation and about 362 taxa belongs to 30 families have been described in Sri Lanka. Even though Pteridophytes play a significant role in natural ecosystems, they are one of the least studied plant categories in Sri Lanka. Although majority of Pteridophytes (81%) have been distributed in the wet zone of the country, little is known about the diversity of them even at Sinharaja Forest which provides a natural refugee for many species. Therefore, the objective of this study was to initiate a systematic study on Pteridophytes at Sinharaja Forest with respect to species and habitat diversity.

The study was conducted in the Mulawella Mountain. Nine plots of 20×20 m were established randomly along the stream. Each plot was divided to four sub plots. All Pteridophytes growing in each sub plot were identified to species level and their number was recorded. Pteridophyte species observed were categorized according to their life forms. Diameter at breast height of all tree species above 5 cm dbh was measured along with their number. Number of saplings from all tree species was also counted. Point diversity of Pteridophytes was estimated as number of species recorded in each plot of 100 m2 and Shannon-Wiener diversity index was calculated. In addition to plot assessment, all Pteridophytes along the stream and other areas were also identified to species level to prepare the checklist for the area.

The study plots and assessments of stream banks and other specific areas documented 63 species belonging to 20 families. Twenty two percent of recorded Pteridophytes in Mulawella area were endemic to Sri Lanka. A check list of Pteridophytes was prepared for the study area. Two extremely rare species namely, Teratophyllum aculeatum and Lindsaea repens were also recorded from the area. A single specimen was recorded which closely resembles Prosaptia ceylanica which is presently limited to a type specimen only at the Kew Herbarium, UK. However, only 28 species (44%) which belongs to 12 families were identified from a total 0.36 ha of randomly selected sample plots. Terrestrial category was the dominant life form with 49% of species at Mulawella mountain area followed by epiphytic (34%) and lithophytic (16%). Only four species were observed in both epiphyte and lithophyte habitats. Elevation of the study area changed from 515 to 750 m amsl, however, the number of fern species and total number of ferns did not show correlation with increasing elevation. Shannon’s Wiener diversity index for individual plots varied from 0.44-1.89. Cumulative number of species showed significant asymptotic relationship with cumulative area surveyed. Based on the results, requirements for future sampling of Pteridophytes have to be developed.

Key words: Pteridophytes, diversity, Sinharaja

R.H.G. Ranil and D.K.N.G. Pushpakumara, B.M.L.D.B. Suriyagoda, T. Sivanathawerl and S. SamitaUniversity of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Floral composition and vegetation structure of Nara Mangrove Reserve, Kadolkele, Sri Lanka and guidelines for conservation

This study was conducted to understand vegetation structure and floral composition to develop suitable protocols for the conservation of NARA mangrove reserve, Kadolkele which is 10 ha in extent and located on the right bank of the northern part of Negombo Estuary (7011’ N, 79050’ E). The ecological value of mangroves is the least concern of people in the surrounding area and this mangrove patch is frequently under threat due to high land demand and its high economic value. Therefore,it is essential to understand ecological and other relevant features in order to determine strategies to conserve this mangrove forest. Knowledge of the vegetation structure and plant composition of this mangrove reserve is an important prerequisite, not only to understand all the aspects of structure and function of this reserve, but also to formulate guidelines for their conservation and management.

Vegetation data were collected in 100 m2 (10 m x 10 m) plots along three transects. Each transects extended inland from the shoreline. A quantitative study of the vegetation (true mangroves, mangrove associates, other trees and shrubs, seedlings and saplings) was conducted and species identified. The anthropogenic activities carried out in the area were also noted.

In total, 29 mangrove species were recorded, out of which 18 were considered true mangroves. Thirty three other types of vegetation were noted. Families with highest abundance of mangroves were Rhizophoraceae, Avicenniaceae and Combretaceae with identical zonal distribution towards the inland, respectively. Lumnitzera racemosa and Avicennia marina were most prominent among the families of Combretaceae and Avicenniaceae, respectively. Rhizophora apiculata and R. mucronata were the most abundant in family Rhizophoraceae while other members included Bruguiera gymnorhiza, B. sexangula and Ceriops tagal. Mangrove associates were found towards landside with high abundance of Premna integrifolia, Derris scandens and Acanthus ilicifolius. Out of the 20 species of true mangroves along the Sri Lankan south-western coast, present study recorded 17 species and an additional species Avicennia alba, which was recently introduced to the reserve from Thailand.

The results of the study indicate Kadolkele Mangrove Reserve consists of high biological diversity of mangroves and therefore it is extremely valuable as a living mangrove forest site readily accessible for education and research, being only 40 km north from Colombo. Destructive activities of the surrounding low income population, increasing of invasive alien floral species and deposition of the garbage such as polythene and plastics due to tidal activities of the lagoon were found to be the severe threats. In order to conserve this reserve, it is necessary to develop a management plan and detail studies should be carried out to improve the knowledge on the faunal diversity of mangrove reserve to provide information required to declare the mangrove reserve of Kadolkele as a conservation zone. Action should be taken to enhance the awareness of the surrounding community on mangroves to achieve sustainable conservation including utilization. The preliminary results of this study can be used as baseline data to monitor environmental change if further development activities continue at Negombo, and for comparison with other more degraded or rehabilitated habitats in western coast of Sri Lanka.
Key words: Kadol kele, mangroves, NARA

D.D.G.L. Dahanayaka1 & W.A. Sumanadasa2
1 National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), Colombo, Sri Lanka.
2 National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), Regional Research
Centre, Kadolkele, Sri Lanka.

A study of the Reptilian faunal diversity in Kukulugala isolated hill Forest, Ratnapura District in Sri Lanka

The Kukulugala Forest (KF) is situated within the Western boundary of the Ratnapura district, Sabaragamuwa Province; and is located 15 km away from Bulathsinhala town. The study area is located between 60 30’-6031’ Northern latitudes and 800 -800 15’ Eastern longitudes. The forest ecosystem, which covers an area of 6000 acres within the Ayagama secretariat division, can be categorized as a low land evergreen rain forest. The dominant tree species are Dipterocarpus sp., Mesua sp., Doona sp., Schumacheria castaneifolia, Artocarpus nobilis, Calophyllum inophyllum, Mangifera zeylanica, Humboldtia laurifolia, Oncosperma fasciculatum and Canarium zeylanicum species. Kukulugala mountain, also known as “Horanae Kanda” in sinhala, is 705m a.s.l. The area consists of a rich hydrological network which includes two large waterfalls called “Ritigas Ella” and “Miyunu Ella”. Additionally, two large streams that start from this mountain, “Thaberum Ela” and “Era-Hadapana Ela”, are the major tributaries that flow throughout the year. The average annual rainfall is around 3849 mm, with heavy rainfalls occurring from December to May. The weather gradually becomes dry from July to October with highest temperatures recorded during the month of August. The mean annual temperature in KF is 28.70C with maximum of 320C and minimum of 21.30.

The KF is well known for its great faunal diversity within the Ratnapura District and is thus considered a very important forest area. It is particularly considered a hot spot for reptiles due to its availability of microhabitats. The present study was carried out between November 2001 and February 2002. Fieldwork was conducted for a total of 20 days (9 hrs / day) over the 4 month period. One hour was spent at each of the 72 randomly selected transects that were located within the three habitat types found in the area. Surveys were conducted both day and night, with flashlights being used at night. The diversity and abundance of reptiles were investigated in KF by using the belt transect (2×100 m) sampling method. During the study period we recorded a total of 708 individuals under 58 species of reptiles, which is about 31.5 % of the total Sri Lankan reptiles described to date. They belonged to 41 (51.2%) genera and 12 (57.1%) families. The endemic Sri Lankan relict genera; Aspidura, Balanophis, Cercaspis, Lyriocephalus, Ceratophora, Lankascincus and Nessia were also encountered in KF. Out of the 58 recorded species, 25 (43.1%) are threatened and 21 (36.2%) are endemic.

The cutting of forests and the slash and burn technique of shift cultivations are the main causes of habitat loss of several endemic reptiles. Many human activities such as cutting trees inside the forest contribute to the decline of arboreal reptiles such as, Calotes liolepis, Lyriocephalus scutatus, Ahaetulla pulverulenta, Chrysopelea ornata, Dendrelaphis bifrenalis and Trimeresurus trigonocephalus species. Habitat loss is the major threat to KF Reptile populations. Despite the short term nature of the present study, it is evident that there is a need for further, long term studies of this nature. In addition it is recommended that awareness programmes on managing the forest and its resources are conducted for the local communities which will in turn contribute to the protection of these species.

D.M.S. S. Karunarathna and A.A.T. Amarasinghe
The Young Zoologists’ Association of Sri Lanka

Species limits of the endemic genus Stemonoporus Thw. : leaf architecture answers

Stemonoporus Thw. is the most species-rich (27 species) endemic dipterocarp genus in Sri Lanka. All its members are categorized as highly threatened or threatened in the IUCN red data book. A recent study carried out in order to evaluate the species limits of Stemonoporus, further strengthened its position as the most species-rich endemic dipterocarp genus in Sri Lanka by further adding a new species and totaling the number to 27. A detailed study on leaf architecture was carried out in order to identify characters for field identification of these 27 species. Leaves were cleared and scored for characters. Twenty leaf architectural characters were identified, including leaf venation type, primary, secondary and tertiary veins, areoles and veinlets. A comprehensive description of leaf architecture for all the species was complied. A combined phylogenetic analysis with other morphological characters was performed. The simple, entire margined, spirally arranged leaves indicated a shared ancestry. Within the genus Stemonoporus, all 27 species are monophyletic and are supported by leaf architectural apomorphies.

The leaf venation characters used during the previous works are indistinctly defined and during the present study, novel, strong and stable leaf architectural characters were identified for each of the species. These characters could play a crucial role in field identification of these highly threatened taxa.

keywords: Stemonoporus, phylogenetic, dipterocarp, threatened

S.C.K. Rubasinghe1 and D.M.D. Yakandawala 2, and D.S.A. Wijesundara 3
1Postgraduate Institute of Science, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
2Department of Botany, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
3Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

Sinharaja Forest nominates for New 7 Wonders of Nature

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources has called upon all Sri Lankans to vote for the Sinharaja Forest to be included among the `New 7 Wonders of Nature`. Voting for nominees will continue until 31.12.08. The New 7 Wonders Panel of Experts will then select 21 finalists, from which voters worldwide will elect the New Seven Wonders of Nature. People can vote for the Sinharaja Forest by going to the link:

Present status of mangroves in three different water bodies associated sites in Thirukkovil and Pottuvil, Ampara district

Thirukkovil and Pottuvil villages in Ampara district are well known for Ecotourism. Village ecotourism is based on the beauty of the coastal belt and its surrounds which is decorated by flora and fauna within its geographical sites. A predominant flora of the coastal villages, along the water bodies are mangroves and this was either fully or partially devastated by tsunami tidal waves in 2004. Studing the present status of mangroves is important for the ecotourism since it enables the present plant forms and by replanting the appropriate species. The aim of the study was to evaluated the present status of mangroves, in the three selected water bodies associate sites namely Maranakandy River in Thirukkovil, Kudakali Lagoon & Dhua Lagoon in Pottuvil, Ampara district, which was carried out in July 2006.

An impact of tidal waves on mangroves and its associates was not clearly evident in Maranakandy River, where an impact was clearly seen in Kudakali lagoon, but least was noted in Dhua lagoon, at the time of study. This impact difference possibly by the distances of sea point’s from the sites and the types of mangrove vegetation the sites had at that time. Maranakandy River was under continuous exploitation by local communities compared to Kudakali lagoon and Dhua lagoon, which located next to each other, but at a distance and an undisturbed state. Both true and associated mangroves species were naturally segregated in all three sites. Predominant species was Rhizophora sp, except in Dhua lagoon. In Dhua lagoon, along the sites, but opposite to the sea, root stumps and prop roots were left out as evident destructive parts of Rhizophora sp. by tidal waves impact and no species were seen in the premises. Rhizophora sp. was grown adjacent and along the sites in Maranakandy River and Kudakali lagoon, where Excoecaria agallocha and Bruguiera gymnorhiza were at its immediate right backyard, respectively. R. mucronata showed a stunted growth in Maranakandy River, where as R. apiculata recorded in Kudakali lagoon was overgrown to a height of 6 m. As such, a morphological habit of R. apiculata possibly served as a colliding object for the impact of tidal waves in Kudakali lagoon and thus impact of tidal waves was greater on R. apiculata, mainly at the entry point of sea water. Tall grown B. gymnorhiza was only recorded in Kudakali lagoon and impact of tidal waves were negligible, since R. apiculata was in the frontier line and sacrificed first while safe guarded the B. gymnorhiza. Natural regenerations by numerous B. gymnorhiza seedlings were seen and being occupied in the devastated sites of R. apiculata in Kudakali lagoon. Replantation of R. mucronata seedlings were noted in Maranakandy River, except in Dhua lagoon. Thus, on site basis, a planned replantation of mangroves is necessary to uplift the socio-economic life of three sites in the district, perhaps ecotourism.

P Manoharan and T Shripathy
Faculty of Science, Eastern University, Sri Lanka

Phytosociology of woody vegetation on the eastern slopes of Nilgiris

For proper assessment of biodiversity, its rate of extinction and driving forces leading to extinction, information on the vegetation type, floristic composition and their habitats, human interventions and ultimately impact on landscape changes vis-à-vis biological richness characteristics are required. Nilgiris, the blue mountains of the Southern India, is one of the magnificent and oldest mountain ranges in the world, lying at the junction of Eastern and Western Ghats of the Indian peninsula. Basically, Nilgiris is a hilly area forming part of the environmentally fragile Western Ghats with extremely rich, abundant and wide array of flora and fauna. Botanically, as well as zoologically and ethnologically, the Nilgiris forms a distinct ecological realm of its own and possesses enigmatic affinities to Himalayan flora and fauna. An attempt has been made in this study to analyse the vegetation of eastern slopes of Nilgiris forming part of the famous NBR for its floristic composition and phytosociological aspects during the year 2002-03.

Results revealed that the vegetation of the entire study area was composed of 166 species distributed among 51 taxonomic families. Among the different vegetation types under study semi-evergreen vegetation was found to be the richest in species composition (117 species), followed by riverine vegetation (89 species) and least species richness was registered in deciduous vegetation (85 species). Phytosociological studies revealed that Dendrocalamus–Anogeissus–Naringi in deciduous vegetation, Karadisale– Nothopegia–Pamburus in riverine vegetation and Olea-Ligustrum-Anogeissus in case of semi-evergreen vegetation were the dominant plant communities. Semi-evergreen vegetation was found to be dense with nearly 540 individuals per ha and dominant with BA of 41.85 m2 ha-1 followed by riverine vegetation (520 individuals per ha and 25.07 m2 ha-1) and deciduous vegetation (317 individuals per ha and 19.17 m2 ha-1). Among the vegetation types under study contiguous distribution was recorded for majority of species followed by random pattern of distribution. None of the species showed regular distribution pattern. Thus, it can be concluded that all the vegetation types under investigation registered comparatively rich floristic composition. This valuable resource needs to be protected and managed sustainably.

R T Agasimani and K Kumaran
Forest College and Research Institute, Mettupalayam (Tamil Nadu), India