Ecosystems

Ecosystems of the world are under threat from logging, land use change and urbanization. This is a very real issue facing the Biodiversity hot spot of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a small island nation of 59,000 square Kilometers located in the Indian Ocean. The island has been long known for it's rich bio diversity and natural forest resources. Over the past half a millenea traders and seafarers from as far as Europe have been engaged in trading in spices and other important Non timber forest products(NTFP's) with Sri lanka.

Due to it's geological and climatic variations the country has many mico-climatic zones. This has been attributed to the relative abundance of Biodiversity.

Plant diversity and endemism in Sri Lanka are quite high, with 3,210 flowering plant species in 1,052 genera, of which 916 species and 18 genera are endemic. Amazingly, all but one of the island’s more than 55 dipterocarp species are found nowhere else in the world. In addition, the island’s ferns (although not recently assessed) are estimated to number about 350 species.

Endemism is particularly marked among amphibians in this hotspot: of approximately 175 species, roughly 130 are endemic. In the case of Sri Lanka, amphibian diversity is only now becoming better known, and the country’s wet zone alone may contain as many as 140 endemic species. Across the hotspot, the genus Philautus is particularly well represented with over 50 species occurring, and nearly all of them are endemic.

More than 20 bird species are endemic to Sri Lanka, mostly from the lowland rainforests and montane forests of the island's southwestern region.

Unfortunately, the amphibian fauna fare particularly high levels of threat, driven particularly by the continuing levels of habitat loss. Among the endemics, over 85 species are considered threatened. Amphibian extinctions are also relatively well documented, with some 20 historically recorded extinctions.

Habitat loss

Historically habitat loss in Sri Lanka can be attributed to the loss of primary forests between 1800 and the present due to logging and land use change, mainly conversion to economically important crops such as Tea, Coffee and Rubber. A large portion of primary forest was converted over this period, now primary tropical rainforests have been reduced to 5% of its original coverage and most of the ecosystems have been fragmented in to smaller units that are not managed adequately.

Over 80% of Sri Lanka's rural community engage in agricultural activities as main income generating actions, many of these rural poor follow high input and monoculture agricultural approaches to production as promoted though out much of the developing nations. This reliance upon toxic chemicals and alteration to traditional cropping systems have led to further impacts upon remnant biodiversity communities.

This habitat loss has been attributed to alarming rates of extinction with over 20% of it's amphibian biodiversity now extinct and over half of the remaining species are on the verge of extinction. 46 bird species are considered vulnerable to critically endangered. Two primate species the purple faced leaf monkey (Trachypithecus vetulus) and the slender loris (Loris tardigradus) are endangered due to the degradation of remaining primary forest patches.

Purple faced leaf monkey(Trachypithecus vetulus)

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