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As a follow up of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme, the Indian National MAB committee designated Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, which includes part of two of the ten bio-geographic provinces of India viz. the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats as the Biosphere Reserve of the country in August 1986 with the following objectives.
  • Conservation of biodiversity and their ecological foundations
  • Bring representative ecosystems under conservation and sustainable use on long term basis
  • Ensure participation of local inhabitants for effective management and devise means for improving alternate livelihood through sustainable use of natural resources;
  • Integrate scientific research with traditional knowledge of conservation and facilitate education and training as a part of overall management of Biosphere Reserve.
The total area of the Bio-sphere reserve is 5520 Sq. K.m out of which major portion of 2537.6 Sq. Kms. is in Tamil Nadu with 1527 Sq. Km. in Karnataka and 1455.4 Sq. Kms. in Kerala. The Bio-sphere Reserve now covers parts of The Nilgiris (Mudumalai WL Sanctuary and National Park (321.1), Mukurthi National Park (78), Nilgiris North (448.3), Nilgiris South(198.8)), Erode (Sathyamangalam (745.9), Erode(49.3)) and Coimbatore (696.2) Districts in Tamil Nadu. The Biosphere lies Between 10 degree 45 minutes to 12 degree 15 minutes North Latitude and 76 degree to 77 degree 15 minutes East Longitutudes.
The Biosphere reserve is split into three major zones viz. Core Zone, Manipulation forestry Zone, Tourism Zone and Restoration Zone.
The break up for the above four zones are as follows:
Core Zone

1240.3 Sq. Km (22.5%)

Manipulation forestry Zone

3238.7 Sq. Km (58.6%).

Tourism Zone

335.0 Sq. Km.(6.1%)

Restoration Zone

706.4 Sq. Km. (12.8%)

The sanctuaries covered are Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and Mukurthi National Park.

The following is the important aspects of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve

The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserves comprises of substantial un-spoilt areas of Natural vegetation ranging from dry scrub to evergreen forests and swamps thus contributing to highest bio-diversity. The altitude ranging from 250 m in the Coimbatore and Calicut plains to 2500 m. in the upper Nilgiris and corresponding climatic gradients support and nourish the different vegetation types. The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is very rich in plant diversity. About 3300 species, 1232 are endemic to the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve. The genus Baeolepis is exclusively endemic to the Nilgiris.Some of the plants entirely restricted to the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve include species of Adenoon, Calacanthus, Baeolepis, Frerea, Jarodina, Wagotea, Poeciloneuron, etc. Of the 175 species of archids found here, 8 are endemic to the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve. These include endemic and endangered species of Vanda, Liparis, Bulbophyllum, Spiranthes and Thrixspermum. The shoals of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve area treasure house of rate plant species.

The fauna of the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve includes over 100 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, 80 species of reptiles; about 39 species of fish, 31 amphibians, 60 species of reptiles, 300 species of butterflies and innumerable invertebrates are endemic to the Western Ghats.

The inclusion of areas adjoining the legally designated reserve forests, national parks and sanctuaries as buffer zone and restoration zone poses a whole range of management problems that need to be tackled for effective conservation and protection of forests and wildlife in NBR.  Some of the issues that leave far-reaching and undesirable impacts on the Biosphere biodiversity are:

  • Human pressures, particularly from forest dwellers in the core zone.
  • Biotic interference by way of grazing, fire, illicit felling, leading to habitat degradation.
  • Fragmentation of habitats resulting from unsustainable developments happening in buffer zone.
  • Encroachment of buffer zone that is crucial migratory tract of animals like elephants leading to habitat of man-animal conflict.
The various acts and rules framed for the protection and conservation of forests and wildlifeprovide ample arm for the managers of the reserve forests and protected areas falling within the NBR. However, activities happening in the restoration zone, which usually includes areas other than forests don't draw adequate support and strength from the prevailing lawas. Therefore, larger management and administrative intervention need to be put in place to deal with the management of the Biosphere Reserves.
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