Sahyadri ENews: LXV
SAHYADRI: Western Ghats Biodiversity Information System
ENVIS @CES, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore

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T V Ramachandra, Minsa M and Bharath S
Energy and Wetlands Research Group,
Centre for Ecological Sciences,
Indian Institute of Science - 560012

1. Introduction
The spatial distribution of an organism is determined by the combined effects of biological (Neudecker 1979; Sheppard 1979) and environmental factors that can affect the birth, growth, and death rates of individuals in the species populations (Glynn 1976; Adjeroud 1997; Hutchinson 1953). Characterizing and explaining the spatial variation of species abundance has an important role in ecology (Ives & Klopfer, 1997; Currie, 2007). The understanding of species distribution pattern in space and time has a significant role in the establishment of management and conservation plans (Fortin and Dale, 2005). Visualization of spatial data with attribute information aid in understanding the environmental and ecological factors responsible for spatial distributions and relations. Geographic information system (GIS) helps in the integration of spatial data from different kinds of sources, such as remote sensing, statistical databases, and recycled paper maps and it offers the ability to manipulate, analyze, and visualize the combined data.
1.1 Ecosystem:
The ecosystem is the fundamental unit of ecology and it includes the multiple interactions between and within the biotope and biocenosis (Odum, 1980). The Earth could be considered a massive ecosystem consisting of biotic and abiotic communities occurring that are responsible for physical and chemical processes which sustain a community of interacting and non-interacting species. The biotic components may be producers, carnivores, omnivores etc., whereas the abiotic may be sunlight, temperature, precipitation, moisture etc. De Groot, 1992 defines ecosystem functions as the capacity of natural processes and components to provide goods and services that directly or indirectly satisfy human needs. Natural ecosystem plays a crucial role in the maintenance and regulation of ecological processes and life support systems in nature.
Each function is the result of the natural processes that takes place in nature. The most important processes of the ecosystem are the transformation of energy, conversion of solar energy to biomass (primary productivity), storage and transfer of energy and minerals in food chains (secondary productivity), biogeochemical cycles, mineralization of organic matter in soils and sediments and regulation of the physical climate system. These natural processes are the result of complex interactions between abiotic and biotic components of ecosystems through the universal driving forces of matter and energy.
1.2. Landscape:
The landscape is defined as a region, where interactions between human and environment take place (Wiens & Milne, 1979). Landscape Ecology is defined as the study of patterns, processes and changes in the landscape (Fig. 1.1) at the scale of hectares to square kilometers (Forman & Godron, 1986; Turner, 1989). Landscape pattern is considered as the spatial relationship between patches or landscape elements. Landscape process is the interaction between spatial elements, and the landscape change is defined as the alteration in structure and function of the Landscape over time (Richard Hobbs, 1997). The changes include both natural and anthropogenic changes. Natural change occurs due to weather, earthquake, forest fire etc and anthropogenic changes take place due to human activities. These anthropogenic activities are one of the major drivers of landscape variations.
Landscape complementation, supplementation, Source & sinks, and neighborhood effects are the 4 ecological processes which act at the landscape level (Dunning et al., 1992). Each process in nature depends upon the distribution of resources. Biota depends on these resource patches to meet their needs and it also supplements other patches with existing resources. The movement of biotic organisms from source to sinks helps in the maintenance of sink population and the neighborhood effects state that the movement of organisms between the landscape patches depends upon the permeability of boundaries neighboring patches. Landscape connectivity refers that the degree to which the landscape supports the movement of organisms between the patches (Taylor et al., 1993). Conserving Landscape connectivity is the key strategy to protect biodiversity, maintain viable ecosystems and wildlife populations and facilitate adaptation for wildlife species to face the climatic changes (Meiklejohn et al., 2009).
1.3. Ecosystem Goods and Services:
Ecosystem functions provide goods and services that directly or indirectly satisfy human needs. The domination of humans in the recent past has led to serious changes in the ecosystem, which has led to environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, conflict over available resources etc. In order to continue the benefit from ecosystem functions, humans need to ensure the continued existence and integrity of natural ecosystems and processes. Nevertheless, these ecosystem goods and services are essential to the human existence on earth. The value of the ecosystem is classified into ecological value, socio-cultural value and economic value (Farber et al., 2002; Limburg et al., 2002: Howarth and Farber, 2002, Wilson & Howarth, 2002). The ecological value of an ecosystem can be determined by the integrity of regulations, habitat functions and other parameters of the ecosystem like complexity, diversity, and rarity (De Groot et al., 2000). The limits of sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services are defined by ecological criteria like integrity, resilience, and resistance (De Groot et al., 2000) (Fig. 1.2). Ecosystem functions are
(i) Production functions: Production functions include the production of ecosystem goods. Autotrophs are the producers which convert carbon dioxide, water, energy, and nutrients into a wide variety of carbohydrates through the process, photosynthesis. These carbohydrates are then used by organisms in the higher trophic level to generate a larger diversity of living biomass. This process of transfer of food energy within a group of organisms through a series of repeated eating and being eaten is known as food chain (Rastogi, 2004). These diverse carbohydrate groups not only provide ecosystem goods for humans but also serve as raw materials for energy resources and genetic material. Information functions of ecosystem help in the maintenance of human health by providing opportunities for reflection, spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, recreation and aesthetic experience.
(ii) Regulation functions: These functions regulate essential ecological processes and life-support systems through biogeochemical cycles and other biospheric processes. It helps in sustaining ecosystem health as wells as it provides direct or indirect benefits to humans in the form of clean water, air, and soil.
(iii) Habitat functions: help in the conservation of genetic and biological diversity by providing satisfactory habitats to flora and fauna.
(iv) Information functions: Socio-cultural value is other criteria that help in determining the relevance of natural ecosystems and their functions to the human society through social values and perceptions.
The Economic value of the goods and services of the ecosystem is determined by various methods depends upon the goods. Economic valuation methods encompass direct market valuation, indirect market valuation, contingent valuation and group valuation.
1.4. Biodiversity:
Biodiversity is the total variability of life on Earth (Heywood, 1995). Groombridge (2002) used the term biodiversity to describe the number, variety, and variability of living organisms in an ecosystem. All forms of life include plants, animals (including both invertebrates and vertebrates) as well as microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria and all levels of the organization. It is also defined as the variety at all levels of the organization includes the diversity in genetic level, species level, and ecosystem level. It is also defined as the richness, abundance, and variability of plants and animal species and communities and the ecological processes that link them with one another and with soil, air, and water (Hunter & Gibbs, 2007). Biodiversity has two functions; Ecological functions and Evolutionary functions. The interactions between the species through ecological processes like competition, parasitism, mutualism, predation and the interactions of species with its environment through the processes like photosynthesis, biogeochemical cycling causes diversity in ecological processes. The diversity of evolutionary functions includes all the ecological processes which cause natural selection and other processes which cause mutations at the genetic level of the organisms (Hunter & Gibbs, 2007).
1.5. Forests:
Forests are a large uncultivated tract of land covered with trees and underwood, woody grooves and pasture. Forests influence climate through physical, chemical and biological processes. Forests are providing ecological, economic, social and aesthetic services to both natural systems and life forms. It also helps in water retention, controls runoffs, provides a shield against floods, and helps in protecting the area from droughts. Forest also provides us with some valuable services such as conservation of ecosystem, prevents erosions, maintains the quality of water, produces oxygen for all living beings and reduces global warming by sequestering carbon from atmosphere. More than 1 billion people living in extreme poverty depends on the forest for their livelihood (Ghazoul, 2015).
1.6. Fauna:
Living things are classified into two kingdoms, Plantae and Animalia (Fig. 1.3). The kingdom Animalia is generally classified into two groups, Non-chordates, and Chordates. The chordates include organisms having a notochord, a dorsal tubular nerve cord, and pharyngeal gill silts. These are the characteristic features of organisms belongs to the chordate phylum. Evolutionary theories show that chordates were originated from non-chordate groups (Jordan and Verma, 2013). Phylum chordata is a heterogeneous assemblage of organisms which widely differ from one another, and are classified into two groups- Protochordata and Euchordata. Protochordata members are relatively small, marine organisms without a vertebral column. This group is also known as invertebrate chordates or non-vertebrates.
The members of the phylum Chordata which possess vertebrae are included in the subdivision Euchordata. The notochord of vertebrates is supplemented by a vertebral column consisting of overlapping vertebrae. These organisms are usually dioecious and the body can be divisible into head, neck, trunk, and tail. It is the largest subphylum with 64,000 species (Noriyuki Satoh, 2016). The subphylum Vertebrata is again classified into two divisions: Agnatha, Jawless fish-like vertebrates without paired limbs and true jaws and Gnathostomata, Jawed vertebrates with paired limbs and true jaws. Gnathostomata has been further divided into two superclasses- Pisces which includes fishes and fish-like aquatic gnathostomes and Tetrapoda comprises of terrestrial four-footed gnathostomes. The superclass Tetrapodais comprised of 4 classes: Class Amphibia, Class Reptilia, Class Aves (Birds) and Class Mammalia.
Globally there are about 1.4 to 1.7 million species which has been described till now and also estimates that the total number of species on Earth ranges from 5 to 100 million. India is one of ecologically, biologically and culturally rich countries in the world. It is one of the richest countries among the twelve major countries with abounding biodiversity. There are 1,26,188 species have been reported from India till now. The faunal diversity of India includes 2546 freshwater fishes, 342 species of amphibians (Dinesh et al, 2012), 428 species of reptiles, 1228 species of aves and 372 species of mammals (Sreedharan, 2004). India shows rich diversity in almost all categories and subsidizes almost 6 percent to the total species richness of the world. Even hundreds of unidentified species still remain in the ecosystems in India.
1.7. Western Ghats
The Western Ghats is a continuous mountain chain running north–south parallel to the western coast of India traversing six states, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamilnadu. It is one of the Gondwanaland breakup landmasses in the early Jurassic period seen towards the mainland Eurasia. The Gondwanaland included India, Australia, South Africa, South America and Antarctica as one single land mass (UNESCO). It is older than Himalaya Mountains with unique biophysical and ecological processes (Ray et al., 2016). The Western Ghats is one of the world’s most heavily populated “Biodiversity Hotspot”, supporting 400 million people. It provides sustain livelihoods by implementing sufficient necessities like water for drinking, transport, irrigation and food (Molur et al., 2011).
According to Gadgil report (2011), 142 taluks in the Western Ghats are considered to be ecologically sensitive zones and Kasturirangan report (2013) states that almost 60% of the Western Ghats region is under cultural landscape. It includes human-dominated land use areas like settlements, agriculture, and plantations other than forest plantations and 41% of the land area is currently classified as the natural landscape (ecologically sensitive). Of the natural landscape, almost 37% is considered as the biologically rich area, it covers an area of 60,000 sq. km. This report also shows that 90% of natural landscape has high biological richness, low fragmentation, and low population density. This natural landscape contains Protected Areas (PAs), World Heritage Sites (WHSs) and Tiger and Elephant corridors and these are considered as an ecologically sensitive area.
The complex topography and climatic conditions of Western Ghats have made certain parts inaccessible and have helped the region to retain its heritage. It also exhibits a great variety of vegetation comprising scrub jungles, grassland, dry and moist deciduous forests, and semi-evergreen and evergreen forests (Srinivasan et al, 2014). This helps in the presence of an abundance of fauna and flora in this region. The Western Ghats montane rain forest is also a home for a large number of endemic biota. It includes 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species. Myers et al, 2000 reported that at least 325 globally threatened species are present in the Western Ghats region and many species of plants and animals remain to be discovered from the Western Ghats. The unplanned developmental activities and abrupt land use changes (Ramachandra et al., 2016a; Ramachandra et al., 2018a) are threatening the forest cover, increase in fragmentation, loss of diversity and habitats, which necessitate the demarcation of ecological sensitive regions and conservation of them (Ramachandra et al., 2016b; Ramachandra et al., 2018b).
2.0 Biodiversity
Biodiversity is heterogeneously distribution of species across the Earth. Some areas like moist tropical forests and coral reefs are rich in biological variations and some areas are virtually devoid of life (some deserts and polar regions). This phenomenon is called latitudinal species richness gradient which means the number of organisms generally increases from polar to temperate to tropical areas (Gaston, 2000). Species are the group of actually or potentially interbreeding natural populations, which are reproductively isolated from other such groups (Mayr, 1942). The global estimations show there are 1.7 million taxonomically described species present on the Earth (Hammond, 1995). The total number of species on Earth is estimated between 5 and 100 million (Sreedharan, 2004). Ecosystems with rich in biodiversity support the lives of thousands of species. About 75 percent of biodiversity exists in the territories like tropical rain forests, tropical dry deciduous forests and mangrove swamps.
Extinction is an occasional natural event and always anthropogenic, as many species lost through extinction every year. The average rate of extinction over past 200 million years is 1-2 species per year known as background extinction and 3-4 families per million years. In the modern era, due to anthropogenic activities, species and ecosystems are in the threatened condition. Massive human–induced extinction rates are estimated as 1000 to 10000 times higher than the expected (Brooks et al., 2006). Currently, 24% of mammals and 12% of birds are at risk of extinction (Rosser & Mainka, 2002). The number of threatened species is expected to increase 7% by 2020 and 14% by 2050, due to the increase in human population (Mckee et al., 2004). Each species in the ecosystem are interdependent, the loss of one species may lead to the disappearance of many other dependent species. Thousands of species worldwide are under threat from overuse, loss of habitat and environmental pollution. Hence the value of maintaining biodiversity is crucial across the world for a healthy ecosystem. Global biodiversity monitoring and management programs are providing information of the number and distribution of species, enabling governments to protect areas which containing rare and threatened species and high levels of biodiversity (Sreedharan, 2004).
2.1. Fishes:
Freshwater fishes are considered a ‘mega-diverse’ group of vertebrates and it is the prime indicator of ecosystem status (Karr et al., 1986). Riverine fauna shows a high degree of endemism and the most endemic fish species are seen at the headwater streams (Groombridge, 1992; Kottelat & Whitten, 1997). Out of 24,618 species of fishes in the World, nearly 8.60% (2,118 species) were reported from India (Nelson, 1994). Freshwater biodiversity remains among the most endangered and poorly protected resources on Earth (Dudgeon 2011; Cooke et al., 2012) and it shows that, almost 1 in 3 freshwater species facing a high risk of extinction (Collen et al., 2014). Dahanukar et al (2004), from the study ‘Distribution, endemism and threat status of freshwater fishes in the Western Ghats’, 288 species of freshwater fishes were reported. The study area includes entire WG region. The study states that WG has 288 freshwater fishes belonging to 12 orders, 41 families, and 109 genera.
Johnson & Arunachalam (2009) studied the diversity, distribution and assemblage structure of fishes in streams of southern WG and reported 60 freshwater fishes belongs to four orders, 13 families, and 27 genera. It also shows that Cyprinidae is the largest fish family and its members Danio aequipinnatus, Garra mullya and Rasbora daniconius were reported from all the study streams in southern WG.
Shahnawaz et al (2010) reported 56 fish species from the Bhadra River in the WG region of Karnataka. Puntius chola, Puntius sophore, Hypselobarbus kolus, Cirrhinus fulungee, Cirrhinus reba, and Osteobrama neilli were the most common and uniformly distributed fishes in the Bhadra River. Mystus krishnensis, Mystus armatus, Ompok pabo, Wallago attu, and Gagata itchkea were the fish species reported as comparatively rare and confined to lower reaches of the river.
In addition to the number of freshwater fishes present in WG, many new species were discovered. Dahanukar et al., (2015) reported a new percomorph fish, Badis britzi from the Nagodi tributary of Sharavati River (Latitude: 13054’58’’N; Longitude: 74053’21’’E; Altitude: 594m asl) in Karnataka. Percomorph fishes are the species belongs to the family Badidae and it consists of two genera; Badis and Dario. Raghavan et al (2008) reported five exotic fish species from the Chalakudy River (Latitude: 10010’ & 10033’30’’N; Longitude: 76017’ & 7704’E) Kerala. Oreochromis mossambicus, Gambusia affinis, Osphronemus goramy, Xiphophorus maculatus and Poecilia reticulata are the exotic species reported. Katwate et al (2013) reported an endemic Barb, Pethia setnai from the WG region of Goa.
Jayaram (2009) reported that 197 species of catfish were present in India. Kumbar et al (2014) conducted a study on diversity, threats, and conservation of catfish fauna of Krishna River and reported that 13 catfish species are present in Krishna River in Sangli district, Maharashtra. Mystus seengtee, Mystus bleekeri, Mystus malabaricus, Rita gogra, Rita kuturnee, Sperata seenghala, Ompok bimaculatus, Wallago attu, Proeutropiichthys taakree, Neotropius khavalchor, Heteropneustes fossilis, Clarias gariepinus and Glyptothorax poonaensis are the catfish species.
2.2. Amphibians:
The diversified topography, geographic locations, humidity and high rainfall supports the survival of numerous amphibian species in Western Ghats (Andrews et al., 2005). It is estimated that 4522 amphibian species are present in the world. Among that 4.4% is reported from India (Sreedharan, 2004).
Krishnamurthy and Shakuntala (2013) reported 35 amphibian species from Sringeri Taluk. Sringeri is a small Taluk (434 sq km) situated on the Western Ghats region of Chickamagalur District (Latitude: 13015' – 13036'N; Longitude: 75004' – 75012'E, Altitude: 624-1458m msl), through field survey in agricultural fields, semi-evergreen forests, low and high-elevation evergreen forests. Various species reported are from the genus Rana, Philautus, Ichthyophis, Bufo, Polypedatus, Nyctibatrachus and Ramanella montana, Microhyla ornata, Uraeoryphlus narayani, Rhacophorus malabaricus.
Andrews et al (2005), surveyed for amphibian fauna in Kerala and highlights as the region has 70 amphibian species belongs to 20 genera, 7 families and 2 orders. The study was conducted in the time period between August 1999 and August 2002. Wayanad district (41 species) has the highest number of amphibians and Kozhikode has lowest with 11 species. Minervarya syhadrensis and Rana limnocharis are the two species reported from Kerala region for the first time. The highest number of amphibian species (48 species) were found between 500 and 1000m altitude and lowest number of species (7 species) above 1500m and 39 species were reported from 1000 and 1500m. Indirana beddomii, Nyctibatrachus major and Rana temporalis were reported from all the altitude. The study reported that highest number of amphibians (41) was found in agricultural fields and plantations and least number of species (9) were found in grasslands. Evergreen and semi-evergreen vegetation has 39 species of amphibians followed by deciduous forest (28) and shoals (18 species).
Indirana is the only genus of the endemic amphibian family Ranixalidae present in the Western Ghats, Indirana gundia is classified as a critically endangered frog species as per the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This species was discovered in 1986 in the forests of Kemphole and Sakleshpur (Latitude: 12049.50'N; Longitude: 75035.50'E), Karnataka, India, by Dubois (1986) and is known to occur only in the type locality (Gundya) at an altitude of 200 m asl (Ramachandra et al., 2010). Jesmina and George (2015) reported new distribution records for Indirana gundia from Kerala part of Western Ghats through visual encounter survey Method, I. gundia species were located from three locations, Konnakkad (Latitude: 12°22'1"N; Longitude: 75°22'21"E), Kanamvayal (Latitude: 12°17'41.2"N; Longitude: 75°28'38.0"E) and Aralam (Latitude: 11°52'43.7"N; Longitude: 75°53'19.0"E) in the northern part of Kerala.
Many new amphibian species were reported from the Western Ghats region in the past few decades. Biju (2003) discovers a new amphibian family as Nasikabatrachidae, includes only one frog species, Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis. Padhye et. al., (2014) reported a new species of leaping frog, Indirana chiravasi belongs to the family Ranixalidae from the Amboli (Latitude: 15.9560N; Longitude: 73.9970E; Altitude: 744m) region of Sindhudurg District, Maharashtra. Zachariah et al (2011) reported a new Polypedates species, Polypedates bijui from the tea plantations of Kadalar tea estate (Latitude: 10°07'N; Longitude: 77°01'E, Altitude: 1393m asl) Idukki district Kerala. Zachariah et al (2011) reported nine new species of frogs of the Raorchestes genus from southern Western Ghats region. In this study, they conduct Field surveys in active and non active period (pre-monsoon, monsoon and post-monsoon seasons) in the Western Ghats. The species include, Raorchestes agasthyaensis, Raorchestes johnceei, Raorchestes manohari and Raorchestes crustai are reported from the Bonacaud estate (Latitude: 8°40’N; Longitude: 77°11’E; Altitude: 600m.asl), Thiruvananthapuram district, Kerala. Raorchestes kadalarensis and Raorchestes heuerkaufi are reported from Kadalar tea estate (Latitude: 10°07’N; Longitude: 77°01’E: Altitude: 1393m. asl) Idduki district, Kerala. Raorchestes ravii is reported from Naduvattam (Latitude: 11°23’N; Longitude: 76°34’E; Altitude: 1890m.asl) Nilgiri district, Tamil Nadu. Raorchestes thodai is reported from Ooty (Latitude: 11°24’N; Longitude: 76°40’E; Altitude: 1980 m.asl), Nilgiri district, Tamil Nadu. Raorchestes uthamani is reported from cardamom plantation (Latitude: 09°26’N; Longitude: 77°09’E; Altitude: 1000m. asl) Pathanamthitta district, Kerala. Priti et al (2016) reported a new crypyic species of bush frog, Raorchestes honnametti from shola forests in Honnametti (Latitude: 11.8987°N; Longitude: 77.1741°E; Altitude: 1659m amsl) and Dodda Sampige (Latitude: 11.9473°N, Longitude: 77.1836°E; Altitude: 1142m amsl) within Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve.
Gower et al (2011) conducted a study on the molecular systematics of caeciliid caecilians of the Western Ghats, India and reported Indotyphlus battersbyi, Indotyphlus maharashtraensis, Gegeneophis danieli, Gegeneophis cf. danieli, Gegeneophis cf. mhadeiensis, Gegeneophis mhadeiensis, Gegeneophis goaensis, Gegeneophis seshachari, Gegeneophis madhavai, Gegeneophis krishni, Gegeneophis sp., Gegeneophis carnosus and Gegeneophis ramaswamii Van Bocxlaer et al (2012) conducted the study on Mountain-associated clade endemism in an ancient frog family (Nyctibatrachidae) on the Indian subcontinent. Night frogs (Nyctibatrachidae) form a family endemic to the Western Ghats. This study includes 119 Nyctibatrachus taxa sampled across the Western Ghats over a period of 15 years. They includes Nyctibatrachus petraeus, N. humayuni, N.danieli, N. sp, N. vrijeuni, N. shiradi, N. karnatakakaensis, N. dattatreyaensis, N. indraneli, N. grandis, N. sylvaticus, N. acanthodermis, N. gavi, N. minor, N. kempholeyensis, N. major, N. minimus, N. poocha, N. devein, N. periyar, N. pillaii, N. aliciae, N. vasanthi, N. deccanensis, N. anamallaiensis and N. beddomii.
2.3. Reptiles:
Reptiles are widely distributed class of Kingdom Animalia. It is present in the entire states of Western Ghats. Palot (2015) reported the reptiles present in the Western Ghats region of Kerala. In this study 173 species were reported, of which 87 are endemic to Western Ghats. Sayyed (2016) assessed the faunal diversity in Satara district in Maharashtra and reported 74 reptilian species (25 are Western Ghats endemic) from 15 families were reported from the Satara district. Vansda National Park is consisting of 41 reptilian species from 31 genera and 11 families (Vyas, 2004).
Radhakrishnan (1999) reported 32 reptilian species of 19 genera and 8 families in the four conservation areas in the Idukki district, Kerala. Periyar Tiger Reserve, Idukki and Chinnar Wildlife sanctuaries and the Eravikulam National Park. Gekkonidae, Agamidae, Scincidae, Typhlopidae, Colubridae, Uropeltidae, Elapidae, and Viperidae are the reptilian families present in the conservation areas of Idukki district.
Ganesh et al (2013) reported 71 reptilian species (47% are WG endemic) from the Agumbe Plateau of Central Western Ghats. Chandramouli and Ganesh (2011) reported 46 species of reptiles belongs to 27 genera and 9 families from the Cardamom Hills, Theni and Virudunagar districts, Tamil Nadu state (Latitude: 09°25’– 09°38’N; Longitude: 77°21’–77°34’E; Altitude: 500–1600m asl) and Ponmudi Hills, Thiruvananthapuram district, Kerala state (Latitude: 8045’N; Longitude: 77008’E; Altitude: 100–1090m asl).
It is estimated that 484 species of reptiles are in India (Kumar et al., 1998). Colubridae is one of the largest snake families in the class reptiles. Vogel & Roiijen (2012) reported a new dendrelaphis species, Dendrelaphis girii from Castle Rock, District Belgaum, Karnataka. Das (1991) reported a Mabuya species, Mabuya gansi from Kalakkad Tiger Reserve, (Latitude: 8º25’ to 8º53’N; Longitude: 77º10’ to 77º35’E) Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu State. Dasia johnsinghi is the new species reported from the study conducted by Harikrishnan et al., (2012) from collected from Servalar, KaniKudi (Latitude: 8.65354°N; Longitude: 77.31387°E) in a riverine forest habitat, Mundanthurai plateau, Tamil Nadu.
2.4. Birds:
Birds are one of the best indicators of environmental quality of the ecosystem and perform various roles such as Scavenger, Pollinator, and Predators of insect pests (Chavan Nilesh, 2015). There are more than 9000 bird species in the world out of that around 1300 species are present in the Indian subcontinent (Grimmett et al., 1999). There are 508 species reported from the WG region and 28 species were endemic to the region (Rasmussen & Anderton 2005).
Birds are the widely distributed fauna present in the Western Ghats. Raman et al (2005) conducted the study on Tropical rainforest bird community structure in relation to altitude, trees species composition, and null models in the Western Ghats and reported that, 278 bird species from Kalakad-Mudanthurai tiger reserve. The fixed-radius point count method was used to survey bird populations in the study areas, Kannikatti (Latitude: 8°37′N; Longitude: 77°16′E; Altitude: 740m), Sengaltheri (Latitude: 8°31′N and Longitude: 77°26′ E; Altitude: 1040m), and Kakachi (Latitude: 8°33′N; Longitude: 77°24′E, Altitude: 1220m) in KMTR.
Ramchandra (2013) conducted a study to estimate the bird diversity and richness in Chandoli national park and reported that 151 bird species from 15 orders and 45 families are present in the Chandoli national park. Passeriformes are the highest order of birds. Among the 151 birds in Chandoli, 63 species belong to the order Passeriformes and 39 species belongs to the order Ciconiiformes.M
Bird diversity in Sharavathy landscape by Barve & Warrier, (2013) shows 215 species of birds were reported from the Karnataka region of central WG, among that 15 species were endemic to the region. This study was conducted in the time period of December 2008 and March 2010 and survey method was used to encounter the birds present in the area.
Praveen (2015) reported 500 species of the birds present in Kerala region, among that 17 are endemic to WG. 25 species were under various threatened categories of IUCN and 32 near threatened species were also recorded.
A number of threatened and rare species of birds were reported from the WG region. According to the literature, there are two species of vultures present in India, the Indian White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis and the Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus. The population rate of these species is declining by more than 90% throughout India (Green et al., 2004; Shultz et al., 2004). Pande et al (2011) reported this critically endangered Indian White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis from the Shrigonda Taluk (Latitude: 18061’N; Longitude: 74069’E), Pune District, Maharashtra, India. Karuthedathu et al (2014) reported the sighting of Common Swift Apus apus from the Kanyakumari district in Tamilnadu and Kasargod district in Kerala. Narayanan et al (2006) reported a globally vulnerable species of bird, Pycnonotus xantholaemus commonly known as Yellow-throated bulbul is reported from the Anuvavi Subramaniar temple (Latitude: 11°03.5’N; Longitude: 76°50.9’E; Altitude: 690m asl), Coimbatore district of Tamilnadu.
2.5. Mammals:
Mammals are the highly developed vertebrates, it is estimated that there are 4629 species of mammals present across the globe and 372 mammals were reported from India. Almost 8% of the global mammalian population is reported in India (Sreedharan, 2004). Large mammals are particularly prone to extinction due to their greater body mass and associated life history traits (Cardillo et al., 2004). Cardillo et al (2005) states that the extinction risk for mammals increases sharply above a body mass threshold of 3 kg.
According to Bapureddy et al (2014), primates are the major group of animals contributing to the mammal biomass in the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, and they also play a major role in seed dispersal and regeneration of the forests. Lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus), bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata), Nilgiri langur (Trachypithecus johnii), southern plains gray langur (Semnopithecus dussumieri), black gray langur (S. hypoleucos), tufted gray langur (S. priam), and two subspecies of loris, Mysore slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus lydekkerianus) and Malabar slender loris (L. lydekkerianus malabaricus) are the primates present in the WG region. Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus) is an endangered species which is endemic to central and southern WG. Molur et al. (2003) projected a total lion-tailed macaque population of about 3,500 individuals in 49 subpopulations in eight locations in the WG. Karanth (1985) reported about 3,000 individuals in 123 groups in 19 locations in Karnataka from the northernmost Kumta range to southern Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary.
Chiroptera is the second most diverse order of mammals and perform ecosystem services like seed dispersal, pollination and insect control. A variety of ecologically and commercially important plants rely on bats to some degree as pollinators or seed dispersers (Kunz et al., 2011). According to Mistry (2001), India has 11.6% of world’s bat population. According to Raghuram et al, (2014) about 43% of the reported 117 bat species present in India are found in the WG region Korad et al (2007) reported that 52 species of bats from the WG through the diversity and distribution of bats in Western Ghats. Among the 52 species, 6 species belong to the suborder Megachiroptera and the remaining 46 species comes under the suborder Microchiroptera.
Hemitragus hylocrius, commonly known as Nilgiri Tahr is an endemic species present in the WG and it is categorized under endangered category by IUCN red data list. Abraham et al (2006) reported that Kerala has 998 individuals and 11 groups of Nilgiri Tahr and report the presence of largest population in the Eravikulam National Park with 696 individuals. Mudappa (2006) reported the sightings of Paradoxurus jerdoni (Brown palm civet) from Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tamilnadu.
2.6. Spatial Distribution
Spatial distribution of species helps to find out their abundance, habitat requirements and associated threats which have a crucial role in planning effective conservation and management of biodiversity. Raghavan et al (2016) conducted the study ‘Protected areas and imperiled endemic freshwater biodiversity in Western Ghats Hotspot’ in the protected areas of Kerala. They collected the biodiversity details of the study region including geographical locations of species sightings. Threat status of each species was analyzed and spatially overlaid the distribution ranges with the shape file of protected areas. The result of this study shows that 130 endemic freshwater fauna including 57 fishes, 37 amphibians, 17 crabs, 16 shrimps, and 13 odonates were reported from the protected areas of Kerala. The spatial overlapping concluded that 54.6% of endemic fauna including one-third of threatened species and 71% of data deficient species were present outside the boundaries of protected area.
According to the study ‘Small carnivores of Biligiri Rangasway Temple Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India’ conducted by Kumara et al (2014) in Karnataka region shows the relation between the distribution of species and their habitat preference. In this study, they classify the forest types of the study area into various groups, Evergreen, Moist and dry deciduous, Scrub forests and plantations. They collect the geographical details of species findings and overlaid above the map of study area and concluded that small carnivores were more in the dry deciduous forest (38.52%), followed by moist deciduous forests (28.68%), 27% in evergreen forests and the least distribution is seen in the scrub forest (5.74%).



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