Why in news?
- According to an expert committee report, expanding plantations of exotic species, including tea, in the Nilgiris can wipe out Shola vegetation.
About the Sholas:
- The Shola vegetation are tropical montane forests found in the Western Ghats separated by rolling grasslands in high altitudes.
- It is a stunted forest growth of diverse grass species and made up of dwarf trees growing 25-30 feet.
- Vegetation is double layered storey with closed canopy which hardly permits a single ray of sunlight to penetrate in the natural vegetation.
- Compared to 1973, Shola grasslands areas have seen a 7% decline by 2014.
- According to the report, the change in vegetation will result in loss of water sources and is already leading to massive landslides.
- Invasive species like eucalyptus, tea plantations and wattle and naturalized alien species like Lantana camara, Opuntia stricta, Parthenium hysterophorus and Senna spectabilis have had a serious impact on the Shola forest and grasslands.
Importance of Sholas:
- They serve as huge water harvesting and storage structures and are rich store houses of biodiversity.
- Many of the rivers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu originate from the Shola grasslands and are perennial.
- With depletion of Sholas and other forests, the streams that supply water to them dry up in summer.