Western Ghats continue to be grab global attention of conservationists even as the State is fervently debating the proposals for conserving the ecosystem of the hill ranges.

The hill ranges is one of the 78 protected areas that have been identified as “most critical to preventing extinctions of the world’s mammals, birds and amphibians,” according to a report that appeared in BirdLife International (BI). BI is the conservation status assessment partner for birds for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to BI report, the study published in the international journal Science calculated the ‘irreplaceability’ of individual protected areas, based on data on 1,73,000 terrestrial protected areas and assessments of 21,500 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Incidentally, the report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel and the High-Level Working Group on Western Ghats, had led to violent protests and heated debates in the State. The sites, spread over 34 countries, “harbour the majority of the populations of more than 600 birds, amphibians, and mammals, half of which are globally threatened. Many of these irreplaceable areas are already designated as places of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention,” the report said.

Another recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE has put ghats as one of the “10 global priority regions where targeted funding for building resiliency and adapting to the impacts of climate change.”

Besides the ghats region, Central America, Caribbean, Andes, Guiana Highlands, Atlantic Coast of Brazil, Albertine Rift, Madagascar, Philippines and Java were identified as the global priority regions.

The study was jointly carried out by the Conservation International and BI in association with universities of California at Santa Barbara, Kansas, Seoul National University and Lincoln University of New Zealand.

All the regions identified “intersect with global Biodiversity Hotspots and cover 13 per cent of currently cultivated land in the tropics and 7 to 9 per cent of the world’s population living in poverty. These priority regions have high likely return on climate adaptation investments in both poverty reduction and conservation,” according to the report.

Around 45 per cent of the bird species of India, numbering around 500 species, could be found in the ghats region, pointed out P.O. Nameer, South Asian coordinator, in situ, Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Species Survival Commission of the IUCN.

Recent researches have succeeded in identifying more number of species endemic to the region which is spread over six States. There is a general feeling among the researchers that the ghats is abode to a large number of endemic and yet undiscovered plant and animal varieties. However, no concerted efforts had gone into systematic documentation and monitoring of its biodiversity wealth on a landscape basis, he said.

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