Among the 270 vertebrate animal species found in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, 60 (or 23 percent) are endemic. Twenty endemic amphibians contrast with eight endemic mammals, 147 endemic birds, 10 endemic amphibians, 21 endemic reptiles, and 72 endemic fish. More than half of Sri Lanka’s indigenous bird species call Sinharaja home; these species are either rare or have low population densities. The endemism of reptiles, mammals, and pollinators is especially abundant. Twenty-one of the sixty-five butterfly species discovered here are native.
Table of Contents
- Sinharaja Forest Reserve
- Sinharaja Forest Reserve location information
- Dates and chronology of the establishment
- Terrestrial tenure
- Area of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve
- The climate of Sinharaja Forest Reserve
- Plants and trees
- The Fauna
- The practise of conservation
- The cultural importance of Sinharaja Forest Reserve
- Human population around Sinharaja Forest Reserve
- Guests and visitor amenities
- Scientific research and facilities at Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve in southwest Sri Lanka is federally significant due to the fact that it contains the sole substantial remnant of the original primary tropical rainforest that once encircled the entire island. Numerous indigenous and rare trees comprise 64 percent of the tree population. Additionally, the reserve is home to 23% of all endemic species in Sri Lanka, including over 50% of all endemic mammals, reptiles, and butterflies, and 85% of all endemic birds.
The nation of Sri Lanka
Reserve designation: Sinharaja Forest Reserve
1988: Designated a Natural World Heritage Site in accordance with Natural Criteria ix and x. The area in question was officially recognised as a Biosphere Reserve (11,187 hectares) by the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme in 1978.
Management Classification of the IUCN: II National Park
The biological province is known as the Ceylonese Rainforest (4.02.01).
The land is 8,564 hectares in size.
West Hinipitigala Peak (1,170 m to 300 m) is at an incline.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve location information
situated in the southwestern lowlands of Sri Lanka, in the provinces of Sabaragamuwa and Southern, approximately 90 kilometres southeast of Colombo. The Napola Dola and Koskulana Ganga border it to the north; the Maha Dola and Gin Ganga border it to the south and south-west; the Kalukandawa Ela and Kudawa Ganga border it to the west; and the Denuwa Kanda and an antiquated pathway near Beverley Tea Estate border it to the east. Its geographical coordinates are 6°21′ to 6°26′ N and 80°21′ to 80°34′ E.
Dates and chronology of the establishment
The preponderance of the land was designated as the Sinharaja-Makalana Forest Reserve by the Waste Lands Ordinance (Gazette 4046) in 1875; the remaining portion was proposed for a forest reserve in the early 20th century.
To preserve watersheds, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, spanning 9,203 hectares, was established in 1926.
In 1978, UNESCO designated every existing and proposed forest reserve as a Biosphere Reserve.
Gazette 528/14 of 1988 declared the establishment of a National Heritage Wilderness Area encompassing 7,648.2 hectares. World Heritage sites encompass a total area of 8,864 hectares, of which 6,092 hectares are forest reserves and 2,772 hectares are prospective forest reserves.
In 1992, the State Party implemented a plan to transform the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, which had been in existence since the Biosphere Reserve, into the 11,187-hectare Sinharaja National Heritage Wilderness Area. To do so, an adjoining forest extension was integrated into the World Heritage site. As of now, the Forest Department (2003) does not consider it to be an enlargement of the World Heritage Site.
Condition supervised by the Forest Department of the Ministry of Lands and Land Development. A National Steering Committee coordinated the event with the Biosphere Reserve.
Area of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve
A sequence of ridges and valleys encircles the Rakwana mountain massif along this 21-by-4-kilometer tract of undulating piedmont. An intricate network of tributaries runs through the area and empties into two main rivers: to the south, the Maha Dola empties into the Gin Ganga (river); to the north, the Napo Dola, Koskulana Ganga, and Kudawa Ganga rivers flow into the Kalu Ganga. The location of the reserve is at the confluence of two principal granite formations that are emblematic of Sri Lanka. The southwestern area is made up of a series of formations that are made up of calc-granulites, scapolite, and metasediments. The highland group is made up of charnockites and khondaites that were formed when sediments changed shape (Cooray, 1978). Located in the centre, the Sinharaja Basic Zone is a substantial outcrop of basic rocks. Hematite, pyroclasts, basic charnockites, pyroxene amphibolites, quartzite, garnet-biotite gneisses, and calc-granulites with scapolite are some of the parts that have already been talked about. The region in question is characterised by an aeromagnetic anomaly, which has almost certainly contributed to the desilication process that resulted in the formation of the nearby gem fields (Katz, 1972; Munasinghe & Dissanayake, 1980). The mostly reddish-yellow podzol soils, excluding alluvium in the basins, do not let water through, weather to laterite in some places, and do not show much organic matter buildup. De Zoysa and Raheem (1987) say this is because of a mix of things, such as the climate, the complex microbiota in the soil that breaks down organic matter quickly into its nutrients, and the trees’ fast absorption and recycling of those nutrients.
The climate of Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Both the southwest monsoon, which occurs from May to July, and the northeast monsoon, which occurs from November to January, deliver precipitation to the forest. The isohyet spectrum spans from 3810mm to 5080mm for the most part. An average of 2500 mm of precipitation falls annually, including 189 mm in February, which is the driest month (Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1983). There is never an arid period. The effect of constant precipitation reduces the minimal seasonal variation in temperature, which varies significantly throughout the day (de Zoysa & Raheem, 1987). There is a temperature range of 19°C to 34°C.
Plants and trees
Sinharaja, an expanse of 47,000 hectares situated in the deep lowlands of Sri Lanka, has remained largely untouched since the 19th century, when three-quarters of it was deforested (de Zoysa & Simon, 1999). There, over fifty percent of Sri Lanka’s surviving similar forest can be located. A total of 337 species inhabit that area, of which 116 are threatened globally. The area is primarily characterised by three types of forest: Dipterocarp woodland situated below an elevation of approximately 500 metres; Shorea forest; climax vegetation encompassing the majority of the reserve along the middle and upper slopes reaching an altitude of 900 metres; and a transitional zone to tropical montane forest situated above an elevation of approximately 900 metres. Gunatilleke and Gunatilleke (1981) reported the identification of 220 distinct species of trees and vegetative climbers. Fourty percent of these are characterised by restricted distributions and low population densities (10 or fewer individuals per 25 hectares), rendering them susceptible to further encroachments into the reserve. Sinharaja harbours 139 (or 64 percent) of the 217 native moist lowland trees and woody climbers that are found throughout Sri Lanka; sixteen of these are considered rare (Peeris, 1975; Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1981, 1985). The composition and structure of the vegetation are summarised in De Zoysa & Raheem’s (1987) publication, and the 1986 Conservation Plan of the Forest Department contains a list of 202 plants with descriptions of their endemicity and uses.
In the valleys and along the lower elevations, Dipterocarpus hispidus (bu-hora) (CR) and D. are the prevailing canopy trees. zeylanicus (hora) (EN), which are typically dispersed as a result of the encroachment of tea and rubber plantations, are found in a few virtually pure stands. The remainder of the trees are Wormia spp. Messua spp. (diyapara), Vitex altissima (milla), and others (chastewaka), Doona (dun), and Chaetocarpus (na). Defining characteristics of this form of forest include dispersed emergents that soar 45 metres above the primary canopy. Secondary forest and vegetation have proliferated extensively in areas where shifting cultivation or rubber and tea plantations have eradicated the original forest cover (de Rosayro, 1954).
The intermediate slope contains the most extensive forest. This commences at approximately 500 metres, or above 335 metres, according to de Rosayro (1942) (Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1985). It is defined by the Mesua-Doona (na-dun) community, which contains Mesua nagassarium (batu-na), M. ferrea (dun) and several species of Shorea (diya-na). The tree canopy is between 30 and 40 metres in height, emergent-free, and uninterrupted. A wide variety of plants co-dominate the undercanopy, with Garcinia hermonii and Xylopia championii consistently establishing themselves as dominant species. Groundcover is minimal (Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1985).
Elevated slopes and ridges feature a vegetation transition from tropical moist evergreen to tropical montane forests, characterised by a reduction in tree height. Sub-montane evergreen forest comprises the vegetation in the 1988 addition to the east; the stunted trees on exposed summits are indicative of montane conditions. Terminalia parviflora (hampalanda), Diospyros sylvatica (sudu kadumberiya), Mastixia nivali (VU), Doona gardneri (dun), Calophyllum calaba (keena), C. Certain species, including Thwaitesii (VU) and Oncosperma fasciculatum (katu kitual), are unique to this location. Some species that are not very common are Antidesma pyrifolium, Glycosmis cyanocarpa, Lindasea repens, Techtaria thwaitesii, and calamander ebony Diosporus quaesita. There are many native herbs and shrubs in the undergrowth. Some of the most common are Schizostigma sp., Paspalum confugatum, Arundina gramimifolia, bamboo orchid, and Lycopodium sp. Badalvanassa and Dicranopteris linearis are the species.
The following trees in Sinharaja have girths exceeding 300 cm: Mesua ferrea, Mesua thwaitesii (diya na), Dipterocarpus zeylanicus, and D. (VU), Shorea stipularisi (hulan idda), Pseudocarpa championii (gona pana), S. hispidus, and Vitex altissima. Palaquium petiolare (kirihambiliya), Scutinanthe brunnea (mahabulu mora), Mangifera zeylanica (etamba), Cryptocarya membranacea (tawwenna) (EN), Hopea discolour (mal-mora), Palaquium trapezifolia (yakahalu), and Syzygium rubicundum (maha kuratiya) are in that order. At an elevation of 742 metres, the palm Loxococcus rupicola (dotalu) (CR) and the rare endemic Atalantia rotundifolia are found exclusively in Sinhagala. An estimated 169 wild flora continue to be utilised by the indigenous villagers (Manikrama, 1993). Some well-known and useful species are Calamus ovoideus, which grows bamboo (Ochlandra stridula (bata)), and C. caryota urens, which grows the kitul palm and is used to make jaggery, an alternative to sugar. Spice-producing Elattaria ensal, Shorea sp. for cane, and Zeylanicus (wewal) in place of cardamom To make flour, employ (dun), Shorea sp. varnish/incense, Vatima copallifea (hal), Beraliya, and Coscinium fenestratum (weni wal) are some examples (Gunatilleke et al., 1994; Lubowski, 1996).
In the Forest Department’s Conservation Plan for 1986, preliminary inventories of fauna are included. Endemism is noteworthy. Among the 270 vertebrate animal species documented by the Forest Department, 60 (or 23 percent) are endemic. Twenty endemic amphibians contrast with eight endemic mammals, 147 endemic birds, 10 endemic amphibians, 21 endemic reptiles, and 72 endemic fish. More than half of Sri Lanka’s indigenous bird species call Sinharaja home; these species are either rare or have low population densities. The endemism of reptiles, mammals, and pollinators is especially abundant. Twenty-one of the sixty-five butterfly species discovered here are native.
In the northeast, the population of Elephas maximus (EN), also known as Indian elephants, is relatively small. Despite being infrequently observed, the Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya (EN)) is the prevailing predator. Among the mammals that inhabit the area are the following: the rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus (VU), the crested wild boar (Sus scrofa cristatus), the sambar (VU), and the white-spotted mouse deer (Moschiola meminna). Additionally, the native purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vaginalis malabaricus) and the fishing cat Zibethailurus viverrina are all within this species of fauna. Two of the twenty smallest animals are Manis crassicaudata, the Indian pangolin, and Lutra lutra nair, the Eurasian otter. There are five birds that live in Sri Lanka that are considered rare or endangered: the ashy-headed laughingthrush (Garrulax cinereifrons), the green-billed coucal (Centopus chlororhynchus), the Sri Lanka white-faced starling (Sturnus albofrontatus), the Sri Lanka blue magpie (Urocissa ornata), and the red-faced malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus) that lives there. Observations of the broad-billed roller, Eurystomus orientalis irisi, in Sri Lanka have decreased considerably over the past five years (de Zoysa & Raheem, 1987).
Python molurus, the Asiatic python, is among the most imperilled endemic species of amphibia and reptiles, alongside a multitude of others that are classified as nationally vulnerable. Some of the most interesting species on the island are the spineless forest lizard (Calotes liocephalus), which is the rarest agamid there; the restricted rough-nosed horned lizard (Ceratophora aspera (VU)), and the rare endemic microhylid frog Ramella palmata (de Zoysa & Raheem, 1987). Evans studied the conservation status of several threatened freshwater species in 1981. The red-tail goby Sicyopterus halei is one of these species. The black ruby barb Puntius nigrofasciatus, the cherry barb Puntius titteya, the smooth-breasted snakehead Channa orientalis, and the combtail Belontia signata are some of the others. Twenty-one out of sixty-five species of butterflies are indigenous. During certain times of the year, Sinharaja is full of Graphium antiphates ceylonicus, also known as the five-bar swordtail, and Atrophaneura jophon (CR), also known as the beautiful Sri Lanka rose (Collins & Morris, 1985; J. Banks, pers. comm., 1986). Both of these plants are considered exceedingly uncommon in other regions. Baker (1937) presented an initial comprehensive outline of the fauna, and de Zoysa & Raheem (1987) offer an exhaustive synthesis.
The practise of conservation
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is one of the wealthiest regions of the ecological “hotspot” in southern India. It is the largest and last viable example of a lowland tropical rain forest in Sri Lanka. There are numerous advantageous plants, including 64% of the endemic trees in Sri Lanka. Additionally, it harbours 23% of the nation’s endemic fauna, which comprises more than 50% of its endemic mammals, 85% of its endemic birds, and numerous uncommon endemic reptiles (IUCN, 2000). The park is located in a WWF Global 200 Freshwater Eco-region, which Conservation International has designated a Conservation Hotspot. It is home to one of the world’s endemic avian species.
The cultural importance of Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Folklore and legends attest to the region’s past, which dates back to the reign of the ancient Sinharaja dynasty. The nomenclature, derived from the Sanha for “lion king” (raja), potentially alludes to the ancient Sinhala civilization, a people of Sri Lanka historically regarded as a “lion race” (Hoffmann, 1979). Logging ceased during the 1970s as a gesture of reverence towards this symbolic purpose (de Zoysa & Simon, 1999).
Human population around Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The perimeters of the Sinharaja forest in the south, northeast, north, and northwest contain 32 large to medium-sized settlements. Barathie and Widanapathirana (1993) report that the population is expanding along the northern frontier, while specific settlements in the southern region were constructed on state land without authorization. The southern, eastern, northeastern, and northern regions all have private estates and natural forests surrounding them. As of 1993, it was estimated that the villages encompassing Sinharaja accommodated a population exceeding 7,000 individuals, comprising 1297 households. Village infrastructure deficiencies and a frequently deteriorating road system necessitate that locals convey their produce to markets over considerable distances. In each buffer zone settlement, a multitude of neighborhood-based organisations are present. The Friends of Sinharaja (Sinharaja Sumithuro), an organisation founded by the Forest Department, provides support in the preservation and protection of the forest. Sinharaja Village Trust, which is funded by an international non-governmental organisation, facilitates the integration of training, marketing, and private enterprise in order to promote ecotourism and enhance biodiversity (de Zoysa & Simon, 1999).
The principal industries consist of tea, rubber, coconuts, maize, and chena cultivation. Additionally, cattle husbandry is practised, alongside the cultivation of coffee, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. Practically every village is transitioning from cropland to tea cultivation, primarily due to the high cost of tea, the availability of government subsidies for subsistence tea producers, and the robust marketing infrastructure that already exists. Despite variations in local reliance on forest resources, this has not alleviated the strain on them. According to a 1985 study by de Silva, 8% of households may have relied solely on forest products, including both timber and non-timber items. This usage type is expanding. The principal pursuits in the vicinity of Sinharaja consist of harvesting kitul palms and producing jaggery and treacle, for which a flourishing market of merchants purchases the wares from the villages for resale in the capital. Additionally, harvested forest products consist of mushrooms, beraliya, weni wal, rattan, wild cardamom, resins, honey, areca almonds, and an assortment of medicinal plants. Nevertheless, the latter is progressively losing recognition (Manikrama, 1993).
Guests and visitor amenities
In 1994, there were approximately 17,000 visitors. The venue witnessed the presence of a minimum of 12,099 schoolchildren, 9,327 local travellers, and 2,260 foreign visitors in the year 2000. In 2002, 36,682 visitors were comprised of environmentalists, college students, pupils, and international tourists; this pressure is beginning to negatively impact the environment. The three entrances are Kudawa, Morningsite, and Pitadeniya, which are situated on the northern, eastern, and southern sides, respectively (Forest Department, 2003). Tour operators, six lodges and dormitories with a combined capacity of 102 individuals, a conservation office, and an information centre are all located at Kudawa, which also serves as the principal entry point. The Mulawella, Waturawa, Nawada tree trail, Gallen Yaya, and Sinhagala nature trails commence at this entry. Lodging facilities for ten individuals are accessible through the Morningsite entrance, which is situated within a unique submontane forest. As a part of the Southwest Rainforest Conservation Project, which has the support of the UNDP’s Global Environmental Facility Programme, Pitadeniya is currently undergoing development to the south of Sinharaja. This involves the construction of an information centre, a dormitory, and a bridge across the Gin Ganga. Eight guides ought to be available to assist visitors.
Scientific research and facilities at Sinharaja Forest Reserve
According to Baker (1936), the Sinharaja rainforest is “the sole significant area of pristine tropical rainforest on the island” (Baker, 1937, 1938). Additional early investigations encompass the works of de Rosayro (1954, 1959), Andrews (1961), and Merritt & Ranatunga (1959), who employed aerial and ground surveys to assess the region’s viability for selective forestry. In 1980, 1981, and 1985, Gunatilleke and Gunatilleke looked at the phytosociology and floristic composition of the woody vegetation to figure out how valuable it was for conservation. The WWF/IUCN Project 1733 and the March for Conservation have been conducting research on the native fauna (Karunaratne et al., 1981). Three authors—de Silva (1985), McDermott & Gunatilleke (1990), and McDermott (1985)—have examined conflicts involving local uses of forest resources. At a scale of 1:40,000, the Forest Department has annotated a vegetation-land use map of the reserve.
The Natural Resources, Energy, and Science Authority of Sri Lanka staffs a field research station that is located in the northern part of Sinharaja. This station is furnished with the most basic necessities. Scientists and visitors also use the Forest Department building at Kudawa outside of the reserve. Scholars from the Universities of Peradeniya, Harvard, and Yale, in addition to independent and foreign scientists, the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, and researchers from the Universities of Peradeniya, Colombo, and Sri Jayawardanepura, have investigated the potential applications of plants. Studies concentrate primarily on the ecology, flora, and fauna, devoting less attention to the eastern and southern regions that were only recently invaded. National UNEP/GEF initiatives that are adequately funded encompass the inventorying of wild relatives of agricultural species, the conservation of medicinal plants, and their sustainable utilisation.
The principal source for the above information was the original nomination for World Heritage status.
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