‘Community evolves slowly in rainforests like India’s Kudremukh and Silent Valley’

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Source: The post is based on an article “Community evolves slowly in rainforests like India’s Kudremukh and Silent Valley” published in the Times of India on 16th July 2022.

Syllabus: GS3 Ecology and Environment

Relevance: Rainforest Ecosystem in India

Context: The Silent Valley national park in Kerala and Kudremukh national park in Karnataka. The former had witnessed a rich conservation history involving a people’s movement to stop a dam and creating a national park. Whereas, the latter is one of the first rainforests that is present in the Western Ghats.

An ecological principle

In natural ecosystems like forests, the species get together to form a community. Further, there won’t be just one dominant species of trees in the ecosystem, there would be diverse kinds of trees living there. Thus, it means there will be incredible diversity in a forest ecosystem.

For Example, tropical rainforests in South America or Southeast Asia could have 800 to 1,000 different species in one hectare alone.

This varies, depending on the history of how species evolved over time and climate.

There will be different levels of diversity between a forest in India, Borneo or Panama.

What are the processes that maintain such diversity in an ecosystem?

Each species has its own ‘niche’ or requirement for the resources like light, water and some nutrients. For example, all the species don’t use resources at the same level. Some thrive in bright sunshine, some in dark and some in dappled sunshine.

Therefore, these differential requirements of light, water and soil nutrients lead to species differentiation and prevent any one species from becoming dominant in complex ecosystems like tropical rainforests.

There are continuous interactions between plants, insects and fungi. It ensures no one species becomes dominant, and a community is upheld. For example,

(a) Small organisms enable diversity in the complex ecosystem through the process of eating plants and regulating the population of the plants and trees.

(2) The disease-causing pathogens act as enemies of trees. The population of the trees may be destroyed by these pathogens. In such a situation, other species come in and establish themselves in that space.

Role of Human Actions on these complex interactions:

(1) Humans have modified forests. The large forest places have been chopped up into smaller pieces for agriculture, roads or logging.

(2) Further, such human interventions like fragmentations of forests, increase the ability of the natural enemies like pathogens to impact the plants.

The rodents work with greater strength in fragmented forest or near forest edges as compared to interiors of forest. For example, rodents like porcupines and wild rats are able to eat more seeds in an impacted fragment versus a less disturbed forest.

Way Forward

These rainforest ecosystems in South India have diverse systems, like rainforests below, grasslands and sholas in the upper regions.  Therefore, it is important to preserve them as these are sanctuaries of nature’s evolutionary history.

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