The Western Ghats have been accorded World Heritage status by the UNESCO.
The World Heritage Committee on Sunday inscribed eight new sites on the UNESCOs World Heritage list,including the 1600-km-long mountain chain that runs along the western coast of the country.
Recognised as one of worlds eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity,the Western Ghatss high mountain forest moderates the tropical climate of the region and presents one of the best examples of the monsoon system in the planet,the committee has said. Older than the Himalayas,the Western Ghats exhibit an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism,and are home to 325 globally threatened flora,fauna,bird,amphibian,reptile and fish species. These forests are considered the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere. The Ghats,also known as Sahyadri Hills,cover approximately 1,40,000 sq km. About 60 per cent of the mountain range is in Karnataka.
According to the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel,constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and headed by noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil,the Western Ghats boast of over 5,000 vascular plants,of which 30 per cent are endemic to the Ghats. There are over 450 species of birds of which 35 per cent are endemic,140 mammal species (20 per cent endemic),and 260 reptile species (over 60 per cent endemic). Besides,the Ghats have a number of fresh water fishes and invertebrates most of which are endemic to the region. Similarly,a number of amphibians are endemic to the Western Ghats and the area has become a hotspot of discovery of new species of frogs in the last decade.
In ecological sciences,it is a known fact that only preserving some of the oases of biodiversity does not help in the conservation. Declaring the entire Western Ghats as a world heritage site will call for a policy for the entire area and not just small patches, said Gadgil.
5 natural Sites added recently
* Lakes of Ounianga (Chad)
* Sangha Trinational (Cameroon,Central African Republic,Congo)
* Chengjiang Fossil Site (China)
* Western Ghats (India)
* Lena Pillars Nature Park (Russian Federation)