Printer Friendly

4 Protected areas and biosphere reserves in the rainforest.

1. The world's protected rainforests

1.1 General considerations

Until recently the main reasons for protecting the equatorial rainforests were to preserve its landscape and to try to prevent the extinction of its wildlife. Yet the rainforests also play a major role in the planet's water cycle, a further reason for concern about their preservation on a world scale.

Most of the world's rainforest is at risk of being plundered by the local population's exploitation of its resources. Thus, the solutions required must be transnational.

The problem is very complex. The rainforest's distribution is almost entirely within countries with weak economies and serious problems of underdevelopment, and this makes it difficult--difficult, but very necessary--to set up and implement effective protection plans, even if only for the distribution of information.

Yet it is a fact that reductionist proposals ignoring the need to associate rainforest protection with improving the living conditions of the human populations concerned were socially unjust and ecologically inviable.

Nor can the problem be reduced just to the need for measures to ensure a decent life for local people. Many rainforest areas contain plentiful biological or mineral resources, and this often leads to outside economic groups taking possession of areas and abusively exploiting them. They exert very strong pressure on weak, or simply corrupt, governments when it comes to protecting--that is, managing rationally--the forests, and private interests usually prevail over public ones.

The reader should note that the rainforest, the cloud forest, and the monsoon forest are often in direct contact, and so to comprehend this section fully it should be read in conjunction with the corresponding sections in this volume on the rainforest and monsoon forest.

1.2 Protected parks and areas

The protected areas of rainforest are distributed throughout almost all the equatorial regions and in many southern hemisphere countries. In the neotropical region there are a hundred protected areas containing some rainforest. Some of the most representative ones are in Brazil, which has 49,420,874 acres (20 million ha) of protected land, mainly forest, that is divided between parks, biological reserves and federal and state environmental protection areas. The largest are the National Parks of Pico de Neblina and Jau, which cover almost 4,942,087 acres (2 million ha). The African tropics have many important protected areas, including the Africa's first national park, Virunga (Albert) National Park, which was created in 1925 during Belgian colonization of present-day Democratic Republic of Congo and covers 1,927,415 acres (780,000 ha). The Salonga National Park, also in Democratic Republic of Congo, covers more than 8,648,653 acres (3.5 million ha) and is the largest in the African rainforest. Some of the most important protected areas in the Indomalaysian region are in Peninsular Malaysia, including the Taman Negara Natural Park in Malaysia, where about 200 endemic species of animal are dependent on the park for their survival. The Doi Suthep-Pui National Park in Thailand is another major protected area, covering 64,509 acres (26,106 ha) and home to 250 species of orchid. Great efforts have been made to assess the minimum size a forest reserve must be for it to survive, and there is still no clear answer. First, the reserve's plant and animal species must be identified and the dynamics of their recovery after stressful situations must be studied. Obviously, this has a lot to do with the population density of each species (the case of a tree species with one specimen per hectare is different from that of a species with 20 specimens per hectare), and their pollination and seed dispersal mechanisms as well as with the distribution ranges of the animals and their movement through the rainforest. An area of 2.5 acres (1 ha) may be sufficiently large to watch a species, especially a plant species, gradually become extinct. This is a slow process, and it is often hard to realize that it is occurring.

2. The UNESCO biosphere reserves in the rainforest

2.1 The biosphere reserves in the rainforest

In 1998 there were 46 biosphere reserves containing tropical rainforest in 29 countries, mainly in South America, Africa, and Asia, together with some in the Caribbean, to protect more than 39,535,000 acres (16 million ha) of forest. The size of the reserves is variable: 1,140 acres (460 ha) has the Omo Nature Reserve in Nigeria, almost 12 million acres (5 million ha) the Brazilian Mata Atlantica Reserve, in fact a series of linked reserves, etc. Anyway, the area of rainforest in each reserve is variable, and a single reserve may contain several types of ecosystems, such as cloud forest, monsoon forest, and other types.

The first biosphere reserves created were in the Caribbean, in 1976: the Luquillo Experimental Forest in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands National Park in the American part of the archipelago. Later in 1977 a further 15 biosphere reserves throughout the southern hemisphere were approved. The most recently created ones are the Mata Atlantica in Brazil, the Guadalupe Archipelago in the Lesser Antilles, the Sierra de las Minas in Guatemala, the Alto Orinoco-Casiquiare in Venezuela, the Xishuangbanna in China, the Bosawas in Nicaragua and the Tonle Sap in Cambodia. Some are unique and irreplaceable blocks of intact rainforest, such as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in the Lacandon mountains of the Mexican state of Chiapas.

2.2 Biosphere reserves in the American rainforest

The different biosphere reserves in the American rainforest are in very different situations with respect to their state of conservation and former management. These countries' social and political situation often mean that the commitments acquired by the authorities when promoting the reserve often cannot be fulfilled, or are only partially fulfilled.

The case of the Mata Atlantica Biosphere Reserve in Brazil is unusual. Established in 1992 and ratified in 1993, it was formed from two biosphere reserves that had previously been established in 1991 (Phase I), the Vale do Ribeira-Sera da Graciosa Reserve, covering 4,433,000 acres (1,794,000 ha), and the Tijuca-Tingua-Orgaos Reserve, which covers 166,000 acres (67,000 ha). The new reserve runs along the entire Serra do Mar on the Atlantic coastline and includes within its perimeters two of Brazil's largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. So much of the Atlantic coastline is privately owned that only 0.1% of the original forest is protected. The vegetation includes tropical rainforest with typical species such as the Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa), whose nuts are one of Brazil's most important rainforest products; the brazilwood, or pau rosado (Caesalpinia echinata), a now-endangered species that was formerly used as a dye; and the black Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra), a timber tree that is in danger of extinction. The fauna includes 2,000 species of butterflies and 6 genera of primates, including 13 species now in danger of extinction. The reserve is remarkable for the broad scope of the research and management undertaken, and particularly for its reforestation efforts, which include bombing denuded areas with gelatin "bombs" containing the seeds of at least 10 tropical trees.

The La Amistad Biosphere Reserve

The La Amistad Biosphere Reserve covers more than 1.2 million acres (half a million ha) in the southern part of the Talamanca Range between Costa Rica and Panama (and more than 2,471,043 acres [a million ha] including the Panamanian section of the La Amistad International Park). One of the reserve's special features is its position on the border; it includes parts of the Costa Rican provinces of San Jose, Cartago, Limon, and Puntarenas and of the Panamanian provinces of Chiriqui and Bocas del Toro.

The reserve establishes mechanisms to ensure protection of the region's rich wildlife and culture, and also has great potential for sustainable development. To fulfill these objectives the two governments are committed to strengthening cooperation to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants and to safeguard its biodiversity in the long term. La Amistad Biosphere Reserve is a further argument in support of the idea that human-made state frontiers should not prevent continuity of natural and cultural processes. Bilateral conventions and cooperation agreements have helped to improve relations between the two countries and have led to joint efforts towards common goals. The process of the creation of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve was different in the two countries. The sector in Costa Rica was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1982, and in 1983 UNESCO included it on the World Heritage List. The Panamanian sector was included in the list in 1990, and then the two countries both agreed, in accordance with UNESCO's World Heritage Program, to administer the two areas in an integrated way. In May 1992 the two governments signed the Frontier Cooperation Agreement between Costa Rica and Panama, with the aim of ensuring permanent and active mechanisms for cooperation in the biosphere reserve and its area of influence. It is a joint effort between the government of Panama, the Organization of American States (OAS), and several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), both national and foreign.

Both the Costa Rican and Panamanian sectors of the reserve consist of different areas protected under different categories, based on national laws and administered by widely varying institutions. In the Costa Rican sector, for example, the National Parks Service administers the national parks of Tapanti, Chirripo, the La Amistad International Park, and the biological reserves of Barbilla and Hitoy Cerere; the Directorate General for Forestry runs the Rio Macho Forest Reserve and the Las Tablas Protective Area; indigenous communal development associations run the indigenous reserves of Tayni, Telire, Ujarras, Salitre, Cabagra, and Chirripo; and the Robert and Catherine Wilson Botanical Garden is administered by the Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS). In the Panamanian sector the Renewable Natural Resources Institute (INRENARE) administers the La Amistad International Park, the Volcan Bery National Park, and the Palo Seco Protective Forest, while the Hydroelectric Resources Institute (IHRE) administers the Fortuna Forest Reserve and the Local Indigenous Councils administer Teribe, Bribri, and Guayami.

Natural features and values

The reserve is divided into three areas to make management and administration easier. The central area consists almost entirely of primary forest that is strictly protected to preserve its biodiversity (the national park and biological reserves). There is a buffer zone where the indigenous people follow traditional land-use systems that maintain the balance of the ecosystems in relation to human activity. The third area is a zone of influence, where agricultural use of the land is permitted as well as extensive ranching, tourism, and agroindustrial activities that organize and make use of the environment.

The Cordillera de Talamanca separating Costa Rica from Panama is the largest and most species-diverse ecosystem in Central America. The range runs northwest-southeast and divides the Central American isthmus into two clearly defined sides. The Atlantic side runs down to the coast, which is swept by the wet trade winds from the Caribbean and crossed by rivers with large flows draining a basin that receives the abundant orogenic rainfall. The Pacific side is less rugged and is subject to strong wet winds from the ocean, and there are large coalescent cones of dejection (alluvial cones) at the base of the slope. During the Miocene and especially Pliocene orogenies the cordillera was affected by intense andesitic-basaltic volcanic activity and by the rising of plutonic rocks. The Caribbean slope consists of ridges of folded sedimentary rocks, the result of the violent Pliocene uprising, when crustal forces raised the sedimentary strata (especially limestones and sandstones). The Pacific slope is the result of intense cracking caused by regional tectonic activity and has a system of stepped horst-type faults. The tallest sites show traces of the last glaciation, such as deep U-shaped valleys that reveal the passing of glaciers thousands of years ago, well-developed glacial cirques separated by sharp peaks or horns carved by the ice, as well as lakes, or tarns, formed during the melting, moraines, hanging valleys, etc. The area's natural richness is impressive, the result of its location as a bridge between two continents, its temperature, rainfall, and altitude; the steep slopes and the physical exposure of the mountainsides. The reserve contains many habitats, from the rainforest in the coastal lowlands to the cloud forests and the subalpine meadows of the highest peaks (almost 13,123 ft [4,000 m]). In the lower parts there is highly diverse wet and hyperhumid tropical and premontane forest. The temperature, humidity, and rainfall conditions ensure that it has a diverse and complex flora, with a high number of species per unit area, and trees with broad crowns and full of epiphytes. In the higher areas there are premontane, low montane, and montane forests, dominated by communities of oaks (Quercus). In the higher areas, above 9,800 ft (3,000 m), with a subalpine climate, there are associations of meadows and marshes, some of which are restricted to small and specialized habitats. High levels of endemism and biodiversity make this area one of the richest in the western hemisphere. The area contains more than 10,000 species of flowering plants (including more than 1,000 orchids), more than 4,000 nonvascular plants, nearly 900 lichens, and more than 1,000 ferns. The fauna is also very diverse. The mammals include the tapir (Tapirus); six species of cat, including the jaguar (Panthera onca); and three species of primate, Geoffrey's spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), the howler monkey locally known as congo (Alouatta palliata), and the Central American squirrel monkey (Cebus capucinus). The giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) lives in the mountain meadows. There are many birds, including abundant quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno) and harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), whose distribution is now very restricted owing to the disappearance of large areas of forest. There are also many species of reptiles, amphibians, and insects. The butterfly population gives Costa Rica second position on a global scale.

Management and problems

The Talamanca Range and its area of influence have one of the richest, most varied, and most complex models of human settlement in Central America. Within the region there are three indigenous groups; the Bribi and Guayami who live in both Costa Rica and Panama, the Cabecar in the Costa Rican sector, and the Teribe in the Panamanian sector.

These groups, found on both sides of the Talamanca Range, form part of the South American "macro-Chibchan" linguistic group. About 85% of Costa Rica's total indigenous population lives in the Costa Rican sector, and about 65% of all Panama's indigenous peoples live in the Panamanian sector. These groups maintain lifestyles deeply rooted in their cultures and territories, with highly dispersed family groups. The course of history has led to a social organization based on two very different sociopolitical factors: traditional internal social structures (the awapa, or elders), and externally influenced ones (indigenous associations). The most important subsistence and self-sufficiency activities are based on shifting agriculture of crops like banana, cocoa, wheat, rice and beans, complemented by hunting, fishing, and other forest products.

The Afro-Caribbean group on the Atlantic coastal area maintains its character and customs and mainly supports itself by cultivating banana and cocoa. Their presence has often contributed to spontaneous colonization and they often settle in legally protected areas.

The groups formed by whites who have come from the interior are settled in small villages or urban-rural centers around the biosphere reserve and exert great pressure on the protected areas. At the same time their work situation is highly precarious, accentuated by the presence of large multinational agroindustrial companies that cultivate banana and pineapple. The settlers living near the reserve have one of the lowest socioeconomic levels in either country. They also suffer from inadequate health, education, and transport services, as well as unemployment. Their economy is based on traditional agriculture and extensive stockraising.

In 1970 cooperation negotiations started between Costa Rica and Panama's Ministers of Economic Policy Planning. Studies began in the same year on organization of frontier development and two years later the two bodies presented their governments with a study explaining the need for joint promotion, on the basis of mutual cooperation, of the integrated development of the common frontier. It also pointed out the need to establish a legal framework to make this cooperation easier. In 1979 the two countries signed a convention to perform short-, medium-, and long-term joint investment and technical assistance projects. This agreement was renewed in 1992 and incorporated as a priority factor the drafting of conservation and binational management plans for the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve. As a result, there have been joint efforts in the conservation and administration of the protected frontier areas, including the creation of a binational technical commission, the formulation of joint financing proposals, integrated operational plans, administrative strategies, scientific research projects, and intersectoral agreements.

The Manu Biosphere Reserve

The Manu National Park (Peru) was created in 1973 and declared a biosphere reserve in 1974. It covers a huge area of 4,648,527 acres (1,881,200 ha), making it the largest area of protected rainforest in the world, except for the Brazilian Mata Atlantica Biosphere Reserve. The Manu Biosphere Reserve is in the provinces of Manu and Paucartambo and includes the entire basin of the Manu River from the eastern slopes of the Andes to the Peruvian Amazon. It includes hundreds of river meanders that run through stretches of protected virgin rainforest whose fauna includes species such as the jaguar, 13 species of primate and more than 1,000 species of bird, such as parrots, kingfishers, chajas (horned screamers), hoatzin, sun bitterns, and nightjars, all in large numbers, and populations of giant otters that play around in the small pools in the forest.

Wildlife studies in the Manu National Park began in the 1950s and led to the establishment in 1969 of the Cocha Cashu Reserve Biological Station, 5 mi (8 km) within the reserve. Since then, research into the black caiman, giant otter, and puma, to mention a few species, have produced very good results. The flora has also been studied with the hope of discovering new medicinal products, as has happened in forests in other parts of the world.

Natural characteristics and values

The topography of this immense park ranges from high areas that are over 12,800 ft (3,900 m) and descends to lowlands of 1,200 ft (365 m). The Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) soars above the highest rocky peaks where temperatures hardly exceed zero. There is a sudden change from the arid vegetation of the Andean puna, dominated by tufted grasses and alpine cushion plants, to dense montane forest on the steep, often mist-covered slopes, where annual rainfall may reach 354 in (9,000 mm).

The clear water flows down cascades and converges into the meandering river Manu, the origin of the park's name, in the lowland plains. Here, the water picks up red clays and flows more slowly through wet evergreen forest with an average annual rainfall of 79 in (2,000 mm) and an incredible diversity of plants.

Near the Cocha Cashu Research Station 200 species of tree have been catalogued in a single 2.5 acre (1 ha) plot, including kapok (Ceiba pentandra) with trunks 47.2 in (120 cm) in diameter. The commonest tree is the otoba (Otoba parviflora), and there are also abundant palms belonging to the genera Astrocaryum, Iriartea, and Scheelea. Another characteristic of these forests is the abundance of the genus Ficus, with 18 known species inside the biosphere reserve. Honduran mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and cedrela, or false cedar (Cedrela odorata), form almost pure stands in the park and produce the best and most profitable timber, while cocoa (Theobroma cacao) and chupachupa (Matisia cordata, Malvaceae) are cultivated for their fruit.

The biosphere reserve houses an apparently unlimited variety of wildlife, and new species are continually being discovered. The park area is estimated to contain about a thousand different species of birds, 25% of the known avifauna of South America and 10% of all the bird species in the world. One reason for this high speciation might be that the Manu Biosphere Reserve is one of the known Pleistocene refugia, an area that retained its forest cover throughout the last ice age, when the surrounding areas dried up and were covered by herbaceous savanna. This continuity gave the flora and fauna enough time to evolve into their current diversity and their current abundance.

The reserve is especially rich in primates. It houses 13 species of primate, including the black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus), Humboldt's woolly monkey (Lagothrix lagotricha), the emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator), the red uakary (Cacajao calvus subsp. rubicundus), and Goeldi's marmoset (Callimico goeldii), which are all considered to be endangered due to excessive hunting pressure. It is very encouraging to see that the black spider monkey, which is generally eliminated by humans when they settle an area, is now very abundant in the biosphere reserve and can be seen everywhere, even near the park's limits, where the most poaching takes place. Other important species of forest monkey in the rainforest include the douroucouli, or night monkey (Aotus trivirgatus), the dusky titi (Callicebus moloch), the monk saki (Pithecia monachus), the brown capuchin (Cebus apella), the spider monkey (Saimari sciureus), and the red howler monkey (Alouatta seniculus), whose cry is amplified by a special adaptation of the larynx that acts as a resonator.

All the large mammals of the reserve are catalogued as endangered owing to intense hunting and habitat destruction. The most important large mammals include the Andean cat (Felis jacobita), the ocelot (F. pardalis), the margay (F. wiedii), the jaguarundi (F. yagouaroundi), and the jaguar (Panthera onca). The puma (F. concolor) also lives at almost all the altitudes, and a study is now being carried out on its habitat within the park's limits. A similar program developed for the jaguar suggested that within the forest it needs an area of 61,776 acres (25,000 ha), which indicates that the Manu National Park might support about 50 jaguars, although it is not known if this figure is correct. The giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) lives along the peaty lakes, pools, and ponds connecting the streams and tributaries crossing the reserve. Other mammals in the reserve that are also endangered are the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), the short-eared fox (Atelocynus microtis), the bush dog (Speothos venaticus), the three-toed sloth (Bradypus infuscatus), and the two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni). In the highest part of the range there are some huemul (Hippocamelus antisensis), now eliminated from almost all the lower areas of its former distribution and still widely hunted. The huemul is rather a stupid animal and easily caught if the group's leader is wounded or killed. The endangered spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is also found in the high area of the park where it has now taken refuge.

The birds of open spaces and waterfowl move along the riverbanks. Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga) and kingfishers (Alcedinidae) nest high up in the treetops, while the African skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris) and gulls (Laridae) nest on the sandbanks. Both feed in the water, Rynchops skimming the top of the water with the lower edge of its bill, while the terns dive into the water to hunt their prey. Small scolopacids run along the shores of the river catching insects without disturbing the nests of the nightjars (caprimulgids). The horned screamer (Anhima cornuta), a fat black bird with a loud, trumpetlike cry, nests on the banks, together with the noisy hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin). The sun bittern (Eurypyga helias) and the fasciated tiger-heron (Tigrisoma fasciatum) perch on the branches near the water watching the movement of the fish. Many other species of heron are common in the reserve, such as the capped heron (Pilherodius pileatus), found mainly in lakes formed by the remains of former meanders. The reserve also protects beautiful macaws, such as the red-bellied macaw (Ara manilata), the blue-and-yellow macaw (A. ararauna), and the red-and-green macaw (A. chloropterus), which are all endangered by habitat loss and their capture for the pet trade. The spectacular Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), with its enormous 10 foot (3 m) wingspread, dominates the air in the high mountains, while the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), one of the largest eagles in South America, eats macaws and other birds.

Many reptiles and amphibians also occur, including 12 different species of reptile belonging to seven families and one of the world's last three wild populations of the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger). It can reach a length of 13 ft (4 m) and has been hunted almost to extinction for its hide. The national park contains the only protected population of the species, with an estimated 150 individuals. The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) also occurs in the reserve, and it too has been intensely hunted for its hide, though not as intensely as the black caiman. The Manu forest also contains one of the most feared of all snakes, the bushmaster (Lachesis muta), a nocturnal species that can reach a length of 11.5 ft (3.5 m). So far 77 amphibian species belonging to 5 different families have been identified near the Cocha Cashu Research Station. Little progress has yet been made in the study of the reserve's estimated 500,000 species of arthropods, belonging to many groups. The research under way has focused on collecting information from the lowland forest; data from the montainous areas are much scarcer.

Management and problems

The park is home to at least four different human cultures, the Machiguenga, the Mashco-piro, the Yaminahua, and the Amahuaca, who are feared even by the park guards. There is no reliable census data for the native population living within the park. The Machiguenga, the best known and most widespread, live in the entire area, except for the upper part of the Manu River and the highlands, and are said to have a population of 12,000 individuals. Much less is known about the Amahuaca and Yaminahua, except that they are much less numerous: Some studies suggest that within the park there are about 2,000 Yaminahua (in the Carija Basin and along the Piedra River) and almost 4,000 Amahuaca (along the Curanga, Inuya, and Sepanua rivers). The park authorities, however, indicate that only 300-500 natives live within the confines of the park. Underlying the indigenous people's isolation, and the reason why there is no reliable census, is the persecution they suffered in the late 19th century by European rubber collectors, who captured and exploited them. Though it did little damage to the forest, it was highly prejudicial to these people. Many tribes were wiped out or decimated by contagious illnesses brought by the Europeans and were displaced from the rivers to the least accessible areas of the forest. The incidents are still remembered, and the natives tend to avoid all contact with white people. The population density is low, as in most tropical rainforest, because this system can hardly sustain people living traditionally by hunting and gathering, as these people do. The nomadic natives of the forest live by fishing in the park's many rivers and streams and by hunting in the forest. Freshwater turtle eggs are also highly appreciated. They practice low-intensity shifting agriculture along the banks of the rivers and lakes.

Because of its complexity and the needs of the indigenous peoples, the park is divided into four different zones. The central area includes most of the national park, is strictly preserved in its natural state, and is accessible only to authorized researchers, official visitors, and scientific tourism groups. The experimental, or buffer, zone is an area for supervised research and tourism, while in the transition, or recovery area, in the Andean meadows stockraising and burning of the forest are strictly controlled. The cultural zone, the area of transition between permanent human settlements, promotes and investigates the sustainable use of the forest and its soil. The native population of the Manu rainforest is considered as part of the protected system and can use the park as it chooses, as its existence does not endanger the park's aims. Great efforts have been made to integrate local inhabitants into the park management team, and the staff training, health, education and rural development programs will surely contribute greatly to the park's rational, well-organized long-term protection. The Manu Biosphere Reserve seems now to be well defended against the forces that have already destroyed rainforests throughout the world, but it is suffering some aggressions. The plan to construct a highway at the edge of the reserve along the river Manu to connect Urubamba to the Madre de Dios area could bring colonists to Manu and would surely endanger the protection of species that are already threatened. Thus, attempts are being made to change the route so that it goes outside the park, and there are great hopes this will happen. A steady stream of colonists is settling on the park's edges or within it; the eastern edge along the rivers Palatoa and Pinipini is under the most threat, and these families must be moved outside the park if the biosphere reserve is to be properly protected. Furthermore, the Peruvian government has segregated two sectors from the park for oil prospection, in violation of the country's own forestry laws.

Another threat facing the reserve is gold prospecting. An American company has already bought the right to install gold mining operations on the river Palatoa, and it is thought that within the concession there may be a lot of gold. If it is found in large quantities, it will probably lead to a gold rush, inevitably leading to human presence in the area and further settlement. Poaching is also worrying, as poachers still enter the park along the river Sipituali, and although a new guardpost is being built to control poaching, the project lacks funding and expectations are not high.

The main invasion of the park is the result of logging. Most logging is not mechanized, but is carried out on a small scale mainly for local use. Illegal logging on the park's edge, mainly on the eastern and southern banks of the river, does not yet pose any great threat as the forest is inaccessible but could become serious unless a good management plan for the park and its surroundings is made effective. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the illegal extraction of timber along the river Manu has declined, thanks to government pressure.

2.3 Biosphere reserves in the African and Madagascar rainforest

The 13 African biosphere reserved contain some tropical wet forest, covering a total of 40 million acres (1,600,000 ha), approximately 10% of the world total. Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of Congo are the only countries with more than half their forest cover left, in the other 32 countries only about a fifth is left. Gabon has one of the richest and best known forests in Africa. The African equatorial forest's biodiversity is very high, especially its flora, which contains about 4,000 known species, including many endemics.

One notable case in Nigeria is the Omo Biosphere Reserve, covering 1,137 acres (460 ha) of rainforest and meadows. Although it is the smallest of the African reserves, it is quite an important reserve because only 19,305 sq mi (50,000 sq km) of rainforest are left in the entire country. It was declared a reserve in 1977, but only recently has a real protection plan come into force. Its vegetation contains many typically African species, such as African rubber (Landolphia), the widely exploited African mahogany (Khaya ivorensis), limba (Terminalia superba), and several species of lianas, orchids, and ferns. Nigeria has not put a great deal of effort into research on endemic species in protected areas, but like other countries in western Africa it is becoming increasingly aware of the great value of its forests and the value of saving them.

The Ipassa-Makokou Biosphere Reserve

The Ipassa-Makokou Biosphere Reserve (Gabon) is a representative example of the equatorial rainforest. It has been protected by decree since 1970, and it was approved as a biosphere reserve in 1983, covering a total area of 37,066 acres (15,000 ha), all lying within Gabon. It is divided into a central area covering 2,471 acres (1,000 ha), where scientific research is performed, and several transition zones, in accordance with the management guidelines proposed by the UNESCO's MAB Program.

Natural characteristics and values

The biosphere reserve is located on the northern banks of the river Ivondo in northeastern Gabon, 375 mi (600 km) from the river's mouth and 6 mi (10 km) southeast of the city of Makokou, on the Makokou plateau. It has a rolling relief with low hills (between 1,475 and 1,800 ft [450 m and 550 m]) covered in rainforest. The site is on the pre-Cambrian peneplain of Ivindo, with crystalline formations of leptinite, basic lava, granites, and gneiss and other sedimentary formations of loams, clays, and conglomerates. The valley base has filled up with successive inputs of alluvial clay. Small streams drain the plateau towards Ivindo on the reserve's southern limit, and several areas with hydromorphic soils experience seasonal flooding. The climate is equatorial, with four seasons and an average annual temperature of 75[degrees]F (23.9[degrees]C). The relative humidity is around 80%, and rainfall, which is the dominant feature, has an annual average of 69 in (1,755 mm) that falls mainly in the two rainy seasons, from mid-September to mid-December and from mid-March to mid-June. Between June and September there is a long dry season when the area is continually under cloud cover and a second, shorter dry season from mid-December to mid-March.

The reserve's vegetation, the lowland rainforest of the Guinea-Congo phytogeographic region, varies locally with distance from the river (where the force of the wind is most evident, and clearings are formed more often than in areas farther from the river) and with the type of soil (for example, the rainforest is distinct on seasonally flooded hydromorphic soils). Fifteen hundred plant species have been recorded in the reserve, although there is an estimated total of 4,000 species. There are no reliable data on the level of endemism, but it is believed that there are 243 species endemic to the Congo-Guinean area, 85% of which are threatened, 12 of them in danger of extinction. The diversity of trees and lianas is about 200 species per hectare (1 ha=2.5 acres). Lianas are a major component of the rainforest and have been thoroughly studied. In this region of the eastern Gabon highlands alep (Desbordesia) is rare, but sorro (Scyphocephalium ochocoa) and beli (Paraberlinia [=Julbernardia] bifoliata) are abundant. Within the area of the reserve there is no oukume (Aucoumea klaineana), but engena (Celtis) occurs, and limbali (Gilbertiodendron dewevrei) forms pure stands in shallow valley bottoms. A typical feature of the old secondary forest is the presence of ilomba (Pycnanthus angolensis).

Gabon's vertebrate fauna is relatively rich, especially in the biosphere reserve. One hundred and thirty species of mammal live near the city of Makokou, although few are left in the reserve because it is so close to the city. There are 12 species of insectivores; 34 species of chiropterans (bats); 17 species of primates; 3 species of pholidotes (pangolins); 34 species of tubulidentates (aardvarks), proboscideans (elephants) and hydrochoerids; and 12 species of artiodactyls (ungulates such as camel or pig); including 2 species of rodent and 3 species of insectivore that were first described in the 1960s. There is great interest in the primates, mainly related to their evolutionary diversification. The species present include drill (Mandrillus [=Papio] sphinx), bush pig (Potamochoerus porcus), and water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus), which has disappeared locally although it is not in danger of extinction. There are also several species of duiker, or duikerbok (Cephalophus monticola, C. leucogaster, C. nigrifrons, C. callipygus, C. dorsalis), as well as sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei), bongo (T. [= Boocercus] euryceros), and Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer). A current census of the elephant population in an area of 21,000 sq mi (55,000 sq km) including part of the reserve, confirms that the distribution of elephants depends on the location of human settlements. The density of elephants increases with distance from human settlements. The abundance and diversity of birds in the Ivindo Basin is probably greater than anywhere else in Africa. There are about 424 species, 356 of them found in a single area of just 500 acres (200 ha), although most are migratory species from Europe and northwest Asia. The level of endemism among the birds is low, but Gabon's forests are a sanctuary for relatively unknown birds, such as the tern (Sterna balaenarum), the bald crow Picathartes oreas, the african river martin (Pseudochelidon eurystomina), and the bush warbler (Bradypterus grandis). The area of Makokou contains 65 catalogued species of reptile and 47 of amphibian. The rivers in the reserve contain a new family of fish, the Grasseichthyidae.

The invertebrate fauna contains many parasites (nematodes, trematodes, ciliates), some of which have been found in the Makokou region. New species found in the reserve include 50 species of Coleoptera, 120 of Lepidoptera, and 40 more species of other groups of insects. Termites, one of the rainforest's most typical features, are obviously well represented, although they have not been studied much in the reserve.

Management and problems

The rainforest provides many people with shelter, food, fuel, medicines, building materials, and many other products. There are many small settlements around the biosphere reserve along the southern bank of the Ivindo, although there has been no anthropological research into their population and little is known about their traditional lifestyles. Agricultural production is based on shifting agriculture. Hunting, fishing, and agriculture are banned within the reserve, where nothing can be killed or collected except for scientific research, although there are some coffee plantations. Setting traps has been banned, as in most of Gabon's reserves, but trapping is widespread owing to the lack of effective surveillance. Poaching is known to occur in the reserve and is increasing because the territory's only marked limit, apart from the natural limit formed by the Ivindo river, is 1.2 mi (2 km) of logged forest on the eastern edge.

The Ipassa-Makokou Reserve is the only protected area in Gabon where logging is not practiced, although the national government's opinion that total protection of the reserves is unnecessary endangers the future of the entire country's system of nature protection. The main problem in all Gabon's reserves is deforestation, mainly because there is no legislation at all to protect them from selective logging, which affects four out of every five reserves. This is so intense that the forest is being replaced by savanna. In this reserve, however, there are two adjacent blocks of almost virgin rainforest and some areas that are completely intact, except for traditional subsistence hunting. They have been naturally protected by several factors, mainly by the fact that it is impossible to transport logs down the Ivindo River (wide, but with many rapids and high waterfalls in the area of the reserve), the absence of Gabon's main timber tree, oukume (Aucoumea klaineana), from the reserve, and the general difficulty of access.

The biosphere reserve is managed by the National Center for Scientific and Techinical Research (CENAREST), which has set up a field research station with a primate and an equatorial ecology laboratory. Access to the reserve is open to all wishing to carry out research and for groups of visitors for educational purposes. The installations include a network of paths in the 500 acres (200 ha) of the research station's grounds, and infrastructure to house 12 scientists, a library, a laboratory, an herbarium with specimens of all the plants identified in the reserve, and a small collection of insects, ungulates, and other animals for the use of the researchers. In spite of its legal status, the management has so far been totally ineffective and inadequate, and there do not appear to be any plans for the future.

Research, mostly performed and funded by foreign institutions, has focused mainly on the dynamic relation between the rainforest and its diversity, interactions between plants and animals, and ecology and animal behavior. Zoological research has concentrated on primates, small ungulates, pangolins, rodents, fish, and insects. Current studies of rainforest biodiversity in the reserve; mainly in the central area, are among the first to be carried out in the Gabon rainforest. Most studies are performed in a 500 acres (200 ha) plot near the research station. There are also monitoring programs, and a species list has been compiled for the reserve and the Makokou region.

The Mananara Nord Biosphere Reserve

The Mananara Nord Biosphere Reserve on the eastern coast of Madagascar is a good example of the country's lowland rainforest. It has a wet tropical climate and contains wet forest vegetation with high biodiversity. Many different plant communities are present, many of them of great importance to the local human population and for the native animal species, such as the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis).

The biosphere reserve occupies a total of 345,946 acres (140,000 ha) divided into three different parts: a terrestrial national park, a marine national park, and a multiple development area. The terrestrial natural park contains three areas of classified forests, Ivontaka Nord, Ivontaka Sud, and Verezanantsoro. The forested areas belong mainly to the government, and most of the cultivated areas are privately owned. The central area of the reserve consists of the terrestrial national park, which covers 59,305 acres (24,000 ha), whereas the marine national park occupies 2,471 acres (1,000 ha) on the isle of Nosy Atafana.

Natural characteristics and values

The Mananara Nord Biosphere Reserve is in a coastal area with hills consisting of crystalline materials (Antongil granites and Mananara magnetites) that rise to a height of about 1,640 ft (500 m) above sea level (the highest is 1,870 ft [570 m]) and go down to a depth of 164 ft (50 m) below sea level in the marine part of the park. The soils are ferralitic, with a narrow band of sand between Anove and Antanambe. The coast is a series of beaches but to the north of Antanambe is more rugged. About 656 ft (200 m) offshore, a partly submerged coral barrier reef rises above sea level, although in some places it reaches farther out. There are also reefs around the island of Nosy Atafana. The granitic rock is deeply cut into valleys formed by fast-flowing rivers that then meander over coastal plain and through alluvial valleys on their way to the coast.

The reserve has a wet tropical climate with an annual rainfall of 110-126 in (2,800-3,200 mm). There is a monsoon period of 180 days with greater rainfall, but it rains almost throughout the entire year and so there is almost no dry season. Even October, the driest month of the year in Madagascar, has an average of 4 in (101 mm) of rain. The average monthly temperature varies between 66 and 79[degrees]F (19 and 26[degrees]), although it is hotter from November to March, with minima and maxima of 75 and 86[degrees]F (24 and 30[degrees]C), respectively.

The Mananara Nord Biosphere Reserve is representative of Madagascar's lowland rainforest. The island separated from Africa million of years ago (human colonization only began 1,500-2,000 years ago), and so the flora and fauna have evolved independently, and many of the species are endemic. In fact, current data suggest there are 10,000 species of plants, of which 80% are endemic.

Approximately 20% of Madagascar is covered by forest. The biosphere reserve's natural vegetation is dense and highly diverse rainforest, with a canopy 82-98 ft (25-30 m) above the ground and few if any emergent trees. The forests of the region surrounding the reserve are rich in species, and none can be said to be dominant, although within the natural vegetation types there are at least two different communities associated with different soil types. On lateritic soils, the trees are typically species of Weinmannia, Tambourissa, Diospyros (with two good timber species, D. perrieri and D. microrhombus), Ravensara, and Oncostemon, together with palms of the genera Dypsis and Chrysalidocarpus. The ebonies (Diospyros) and rosewoods (Dalbergia) have been so intensely logged that few large, well-formed specimens remain. The natural vegetation of the sandy coastal plain contains trees like the Indian almond (Terminalia cattapa) and others belonging to the genera Calophyllum, Canarium, and Heritiera. The mangrove formations are dominated by white mangrove (Rhizophora mucronata) and black mangrove (Avicennia marina). Less than 3% of the mangrove area in Madagascar is on the eastern coast. Mangroves are important for coastal fisheries, as they are the breeding sites for many species of fish and crustaceans. They are also an important breeding area for several birds, including the Madagascar fishing eagle (Haliaeetus vociferoides), an endemic species in harsh danger of extinction, and the tern (Sterna bergii).

The best represented plant families are the Rubiaceae, Ebenaceae (including the genus Diospyros), Monimiaceae (the genus Tambourissa), Apocynaceae, Burseraceae (the genus Canarium), and the Euphorbiaceae. In the middle tree layer, the low trees and tall herbaceous plants, the best represented families are the Orchidaceae, Araliaceae, Violaceae, Arecaceae (Palmae), Tiliaceae, and the endemic Sarcolaenaceae. Epiphytic plants, especially ferns and orchids, grow on many species of tree. A very rich flora grows along the reserve's watercourses, with an especial abundance of aquatic plants of the genera Aponogeton and Hydrostachis.

The fauna of the Mananara Biosphere Reserve's rainforest and coral reef communities has not yet been thoroughly studied, although the value of the island's endemic species is now recognized, as is the reserve's importance as their last refuge. Great efforts have already been made to learn more about some of the rarer species, such as the lemurs and the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Among the mammals there are also some noteworthy threatened species, such as the Madagascar mongoose (Galidictis fasciata) and the salano (Salanoia concolor), as well as others about which there is little information, such as the greater sifaka or simpona (Propithecus diadema diadema), the indri (Indri indri), and the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Madagascar has almost 30 species of lemurs that occur nowhere else, many of which are vulnerable, rare, or threatened. The most characteristic lemurs of the reserve are the ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata), the rare dwarf hairy-eared lemur (Allocebus trichotis), and the very rare bokombol (Hapalemur simus), which was rediscovered in 1972, a century after its first and only previous sighting.

Birds are especially abundant in the central area of the reserve, and according to a 1989 study, 60 different species nest there. Some are important, such as the groundrollers Brachypteracias squamigera and B. leptosomus; both are restricted to Madagascar, like the entire family of the Brachypteraciidae, and both, but especially B. squamigera, are endangered. Another important bird is the vanga (Eurycerus prevostii) of the Vangidae family, which is endemic to Madagascar and the Comoros. The reserve is one of the few regions where it is possible to find the hawk owl (Ninox superciliaris).

The most important reptiles in the reserve are the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), which is in danger of extinction; the fandrefriala (Ithycyphus perineti), a long, slender tree snake with a bright red tip to its tail; and the chameleon Chamaeleo cucullatus), one of the 30 species of this genus that occurs in Madagascar. The area of the marine reserve is now a refuge for the dugong (Dugong dugon).

Management and problems

The reserve is very important for the local population, which considers Mananara as its lands and obtains several resources from it, including honey and medicinal and edible plants. About 40,000 people live in settlements within the reserve, with a few dozen living in the cental area and the rest in the area of influence. Continuity in the studies of the life, culture, traditions, and lifestyles of the settlers is very important in order to try to ensure their compatibility with the biosphere reserve's management. The local population lives basically from subsistence agriculture, mainly the cultivation of rice, taro, bananas, mangos, and lychees (Litchi chinensis), and also by traditional stockraising--mainly the rearing of zebus, pigs, chicken, geese, and ducks--and by fishing, limited to a few river species. This subsistence agriculture is practiced in areas subject to traditional "slash and burn" known as tavy, now the main cause of deforestation in Madagascar's rainforest and other biomes. Yet most of the forests at higher altitudes have remained intact for many years owing to ancient superstitions based on the belief that they are shelters for the souls of the dead, whose reprisals are feared by the living. A small part of the mangrove forest is being logged for fuelwood and timber, but most is still intact. The zone of influence includes large estates with plantations of clove, vanilla, coffee, and pepper for sale in Madagascar and export, although production is controlled by those in charge of the biosphere reserve. So far, little research has been carried out in the reserve. The Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle of Paris carried out a study on the aye-aye in the island (1978-1988), and in 1989 there were 30 local researchers working in the area and about 10 foreign scientists studying a wide range of species.

The legal protection of Madagascar's forests began 200 years ago in the reign of Andrianapoinimerina (17871810) with a decree fining those felling the region's forests. Years later, under the former Hova monarchy, those caught felling trees were sent to prison. Punishments are not now so severe, and the Direction des Forets, which is responsible for their management, generally applies less drastic sanctions. According to the Direction des Eaux et Forets, there are a dozen guards, four of them responsible for the biosphere reserve's administration and management.

The law creating the Mananara Nord Biosphere Reserve was approved in 1989, and the nomination was accepted by UNESCO's MAB Program in 1990. The legislative developments referred to have introduced into Madagascar's legislation the subject of the biosphere reserve as defined by the MAB Program. The area of the terrestrial national park was established in accordance with the African Convention, and all types of fishing or aquiculture activities are prohibited in the marine park. Industrial and economic development is only permitted inside the biosphere reserve if it is in accord with the reserve's management plan. Even so, there is still no definitive management plan, although attempts are being made to improve agricultural land, especially by small-scale irrigation, to increase rice production. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Ministry of Animal Production and Forests started a study project, finished in 1989, to establish management criteria. Illegal timber exploitation is increasing throughout Madagascar, especially in the eastern part, in the areas of classified forest of Mananara Nord, especially in Ivontaka Nord and in Ivontaka Sud, and to a lesser extent in the northern sector of Verezanantsoro. The trees logged are mainly ebonies (Diospyros), rosewood (Dalbergia), and Ravensara. The inhabitants of the settlements immediately around the classified forests cut the trees for unirrigated rice crops and also for firewood and building materials. There is also poaching, mainly of lemurs, but also of dugongs.

A new danger facing the reserve is the project to build a road to join Sandrakatsy to Antanambe through Verezanantsoro forest. Roads abandoned 20 years ago by the Societe des Moulins de Dakar have been reopened by loggers, encouraging tavy in a larger area. Between 1950 and 1985 the deforestation of these eastern forests reached an estimated average of 430 sq mi (1,110 sq km) a year, mainly due to increased tavy agriculture caused by the growth of Madagascar's population.

2.4 The biosphere reserves in the south Asian and Indo-Pacific forests

Of the nine Asiatic biosphere reserves in the biome, only Sinharaja in Sri Lanka has a significant percentage of tropical forest. The Palawan Biosphere Reserve in the Philippines also lies within the biome, although it is of greater interest because it is an island and because the management relations that have been established.

The Palawan Biosphere Reserve occupies the entire island, a large area 264 mi (425 km) long and with an average width of 19 mi (30 km). It was established in 1990 and covers a total area of 3,906,226 acres (1,580,800 ha). The island's central backbone is now almost completely deforested, and near the coast the forest blends into mangrove. The forest is very well conserved, although there are some incursions by loggers, mining, and uncontrolled agriculture. Much of the Palawan forest is occupied by mature formations of dipterocarps, including lauan or Philippine mahogany Shorea polysperma). There are also many rattans of the genera Daemonorops, climbing palms that provide the raw material for "Manila style furniture" as well as produce edible, tender young shoots and provide a liquid (obtained from the fruit) that is used as a coloring agent and for medicinal purposes. Around one third of the birds in the Philippines are endemic, most of them forest-dwellers that are very sensitive to alterations of the forest. Many birds are also endangered by hunting, as they eaten or sold as caged birds, for example, the red-tailed cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), whose main populations have been decimated. The main threat to the Palawan forest is deforestation by shifting agriculture, logging and mining. The island as a whole is ecologically fragile and needs careful planning. It is thought that unless measures are taken, by the year 2000 the last remnants of rainforest will disappear. Recently plans for research into the protected area have been developed, and a management system has been proposed for the entire island that includes all aspects of the activity of the human population.

The Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve

The Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve includes the last large area of lowland tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka. It is in a region that features in the island's legends, and its name literally means lion (sinha) king (raja), which might refer to the original royal forest of the Sinhalese, the legendary "lion race" of Sri Lanka, or the territory of a lion famous in the island. The reserve is very valuable because it contains many endemic species of plants (60% of the trees) and animals (21 species of bird and many insects, amphibians and reptiles) and a wide range of useful plants.

Natural characteristics and values

The reserve is in the wet lowland area of southwestern Sri Lanka, surrounded by the rivers Napola Dola and Koskulana Ganga to the north, by the rivers the Maha Dola and the Gin Ganga to the south and southwest, by the rivers the Kalukandawa Ela and the Kudawa Ganga to the west, and by the former road near the Beverly tea plantation and the Denuwa Kanda to the east. The Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covers an area of 21,903 acres (8,864 ha), 14,286 (6,000 ha) of them forest reserve. This narrow strip of rolling land consists of a series of ridges and valleys that rise from 984-3,839 ft (300-1,170 m) above sea level (the peak of Hinipitigala). The site is crossed by an intricate network of watercourses that flow into the Gin Ganga on the southern edge and into the Kalu Ganga, via the Napola Dola, Koskulana Ganga and Kudawa Ganga, on the northern edge. The soils are mainly red-yellow podzols and are well-drained with little accumulation of organic matter, owing to the combination of favorable climatic conditions, a rich and varied soil microflora that rapidly decomposes organic matter, and rapid nutrient uptake and recycling by the trees.

According to meteorological data avalaible (more than 60 years of registers), annual rainfall is between 142 and 197 in (3,614 and 5,006 mm) and the temperature ranges from 66-93[degrees]F (19-34[degrees]C). Most of the rain falls during the May-June monsoons from the southwest and during the November-January monsoons from the northeast; in February there is a relatively dry period.

The reserve houses two types of forest. There are the remains of the dipterocarp forest (Dipterocarpus, etc.) covering the valleys and gentle slopes, mainly D. zeylanicus and D. hispidus, which forms almost pure stands. Secondary forests form where the original forest has been eliminated by shifting agriculture, and in other sites it has been replaced by tea and rubber plantations. The Shorea forest, the climax vegetation of most of the reserve, covers gentle slopes above 1,640 ft (500 m) and steep slopes above 1,099 ft (335 m); garcinia (Garcinia hermonii) and to a lesser extent Xylopia championii (Annonaceae) invariably dominate the lower tree layer, while several species dominate the second layer and the upper canopy layer is normally dominated by the ironwood (Mesua nagassarium).

Sri Lanka has 830 species of endemic plants, 217 of them, trees and woody lianas, occur in the wet lowland area. One hundred and thirty-nine of these, (64%) occur within the reserve, and 16 species are considered very rare on a global scale. Other rare endemic species include the palms Loxococcus rupicola and Atalantia rotundifolia, which is restricted to a single site in Singhagala at 2,434 ft (742 m) above sea level. Of the 217 species of tree and woody liana, 40% have low population densities (10 specimens per 62 acres [25 ha]), and 43% have a restricted distribution that makes them very vulnerable. Within the reserve the large variety of plants traditionally used by humans includes the kitul palm (Caryota urens), the source of jaggery, a sweetener used as a sugar substitute; wewal (Calamus), rattans that are used for wickerwork; Ceylon cardamon (Elettaria ensal), a spice and flavoring; dun (Shorea), a source of varnishes and aromatic wood for incense; and weniwal (Coscinium fenestratum), the source of a yellowing coloring agent and active principles with tonic and digestive properties.

The biosphere reserve's fauna, especially the bird fauna, contains a very high percentage of endemic species, including 19 of Sri Lanka's 20 endemic bird species, and more than 50% of the island's endemic mammals and butterflies. Some mammals that occur in the reserve, such as the leopard (Panthera pardus), are globally threatened species, and others, such as the Indian elephant (Elephas maximus), are in real danger of extinction. The reserve also contains langur (Trachypithecus [= Presbytis] retulus). Rare or endangered birds include the Ceylon wood pigeon Columba torringtonii), the green-billed coucal (Centropus chlororhynchus), the whiteheaded starling (Sturnus senex), the Ceylon blue magpie (Cissa ornata), and the laughing thrush (Garrulax cinereifrons), all of which are endemic. Although it is not an endemic, the red-faced malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrocephalus) is rare and in danger of extinction. Other important endemic species include the broad-billed roller (Eurystomus orientalis irisi), whose population has declined notably in the last five years. The reptiles and amphibians include the vulnerable Indian python (Python molurus); several threatened endemic species, such as the lizard Calotes liolepis, the island's rarest agamid, and the lizard Ceratophora aspera, now restricted to the wet areas of Sri Lanka; and the small endemic frog Ramella palmata. Endangered freshwater fish include gourami (Belontia signata, polyacanthids), smooth-billed snakeshead (Channa orientalis, channids), ruby-black barb (Barbus nigrofasciatus), cherry barb (B. titeya), and red-tailed goby (Sicydium halei). Of the 21 species of endemic butterflies, the Sri Lanka endemic Atrophaneura jophon is vulnerable, while the very rare Sri Lanka endemic Grophium antipathes ceylonicus is very common within the reserve at certain times of year.

Management and problems

The southwestern area of the reserve contains two villages, Warukandeniya and Kolonthotuwa, and about 52 families live in the northwestern sector. There are at least 20 human settlements on the periphery, some of them squatters on state-owned land. The total population is about 5,000. Part of the land adjoining the reserve is privately owned, including some small rubber and tea plantations. Local dependence on rainforest resources varies, but about 8% of all households must be totally economically dependent on the rainforest.

Sinharaja was recognized in 1936, as the island's only remaining large patch of undisturbed tropical rainforest. Inaccessible because of the steep hilly terrain, the reserve remained untouched until 1968, when a government decree was issued to extract timber for the plywood sawmill and chipwood complex in Kosgama. From 19711977, when logging was banned as a result of public pressure from the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, about 34,600 acres (1,400 ha) of forest in the western sector were selectively logged. Intact forest now covers from 16,062-17,297 acres (6,500-7,000 ha). Since 1977, the Forest Department has given high priority to protecting the reserve. In 1978, it started to plant Pinus caribaea along the periphery to establish a live boundary. More recently, betelnut palm (Areca catechu) has been used for the same purpose. Sinharaja Forest was declared a biosphere reserve in 1978 and was included on the World Heritage List in 1988, although the biosphere reserve continues to be the property of the state. The reserve is now managed by the Forest Department.

An officially approved conservation plan is being applied on the basis of an agreement between the IUCN and the Sri Lanka government, with additional funding from the Norwegian government. To ensure the reserve's strict protection for aesthetic and scientific reasons, a zoning and management scheme has been proposed for the neighboring areas. The reserve has three wardens and four forestry officials. The intention is to produce and distribute essential products in the areas outside the reserve to satisfy local needs and thus diminish dependence on resources from within the reserve. One strategy is to establish a 2 mi (3.2 km) wide zone of influence around the protected area or, alternatively, to extend the reserve to cover 117,000 acres (47,380 ha), so that the reserve forms a strictly protected area and the surrounding areas act as buffer zones. Kitul (Caryota urens) is the only resource still legally extracted but only by permit-holders. The favored approach is to freeze resource use in the reserve at the 1985 level and to decrease use by transferring the villages to external areas.

Some of the main difficulties that stem from protecting the reserve are social and economic, related to peoples and the organizations that neighbor the reserve. Encroaching cultivation, especially on the southern edge, is perhaps the greatest problem. Roads are opened to facilitate logging operations; although logging is not permitted within 1 mi (1.6 km) of the reserve's boundaries, these new roads may create easy access for future illegal logging. The cultivation of Honduran mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) along the abandoned logging trails to enrich these sites may displace native species, as it is a prolific seed-producer. Alleged malpractice by the State Timber Corporation is a source of concern for the Forestry Department. Private landowners along the periphery may be making illegal use of the timber resources within the reserve; after felling all the merchandisable timber on their land, they still request permits for further logging. The most important extractive activity, however, is firewood collection, as significant quantities are used in jaggery production. The traditional use of minor forest products, the most important of which are kitul (Caryota urens) and wewal (Calamus) for weaving baskets, is now restricted to the forested areas around the reserve. Illegal gem mining is also considered to be a serious problem in the eastern parts of the reserve; it is organized mainly by wealthy merchants from outside the Sinharaja region and needs to be stopped. The lack of a uniform land-use policy and the multiplicity of governmental and semigovernmental agencies involved in land-use planning in Sri Lanka are the main administrative constraints on reaching an effective protection plan. All land transactions around the reserve have now been suspended by presidential order, until the conservation plan is ready for application.

The first studies performed in the reserve, based on field work and aerial surveys, recommended selective logging. One of the first inventories of the Sri Lanka flora was made here in 1937, and the first lists of the fauna (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and butterflies) were compiled in 1985 for inclusion in the Forestry Department's 1985 draft conservation plan. The floristic and phytosociological compositions of the woody vegetation have been studied recently (1980-1985) and some work on its conservation. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has also carried out research into the reserve's endemic fauna, together with the IUCN and other organizations, such as Natural Resources and March for Conservation. There have also been studies of the conflicts over local use of forest resources (1985, 1986), and a map of the reserve's soil use and vegetation has been drawn up (1:40,000 scale). The Natural Resources, Energy, and Science Authority of Sri Lanka has supplied a field research station, and the Forestry Department has a residential center in Kudawa, near the entrance to the reserve, where visitors and scientists can stay for a time.

Few people visit the biosphere reserve, most of them naturalists. Entry is by permit, which must be obtained from the Forestry Department in Colombo. There are paths leading to the peaks of Moulawella and Sinhagala, and a special guide was recently published.

200 The establishment of areas of rainforest completely protected from all forms of exploitation is essential to guarantee the survival of many species, in fact most of the species now in existence. The titis of the Brazilian Mata Atlantica, such as this specimen of Callithrix jacchus, are a good example of species whose survival is inseparable from the protection of the rainforest.

[Photo: Jany Sauvenet / Auscape International]

201 Biosphere reserves in rainforest areas (1998), showing the year each one was declared and its area. The area (in hectares) corresponds to the total area of the reserve, although other formations may be present, especially montane cloud forest and monsoon forest. Remember that many biosphere reserves were previously protected under other forms of protection, such as a national park, a flora reserve, or a forest reserve, and these may or may not coincide in surface area. The largest are the Mata Atlantica Biosphere Reserve, which conserves the remains of Brazil's tropical lowland rainforest ecosystem; the Manu Biosphere Reserve, the second largest, which also includes a large area of cloud forest; the Palawan Biosphere Reserve (Philippines), which also has cloud forest and monsoon forest; the Maya Biosphere Reserve (Gua-temala) is of great importance in the preservation of the world's cultural, as well as natural, heritage.

[Drawing: Editronica, from several sources]

202 Costa Rica is among the countries in the Ame-ricas that have established the most protected areas, but this does not mean it lacks environmental problems. The photo shows the Braulio Carillo National Park, one of the largest in the country (108,726 acres [44,000 ha]). In the foreground are the enormous leaves of the "umbrella of the poor," gunnera (Gunnera spp.).

[Photo: Xavier Ferrer & Adolf de Sostoa]

203 Howler monkeys (Alouatta) are among the most remarkable rainforest primates. In need of protection, these monkeys and especially the adult males are able to produce deep and very loud howls that can be heard from a kilometer away or more (1 km=0.6 mi). This is because they amplify the sound by means of a special adaptation of the larynx. The morning chorus of howler monkeys is one of the most typical sounds of the American rainforest. There are six species of howler monkeys; the one in the photo is the red howler (A. seniculus).

[Photo: Xavier Ferrer & Adolf de Sostoa]

204 From the lowland rainforest to the desolate highlands of the Andes, rising from the lowest areas (1,200 ft [365 m]) to the highest areas (13,000 ft [almost 4,000 m]), the Manu Biosphere Reserve is a marvel of biodiversity. The photo shows meanders in the small Pinquen River, a tributary of the Madre de Dios, in the lower part of the plain.

[Photo: Andre Barstchi / Planet Earth Pictures]

205 One of the commonest trees in the lowland rainforest of the Manu Biosphere Reserve is the ceiba, or kapok (Ceiba pentandra), originally from Central America and now spread throughout the world's tropical rainforests and seasonally wet forests. The ancient inhabitants of Guatemala and Honduras held religious ceremonies in its shade, and in the Yucatan peninsula it is still considered the most sacred of trees by the descendants of the Maya. A light-loving species, the umbrella-shaped crown rises above the canopy to a height of 98-164 ft (30-50 m), while the base of the trunk, surrounded by buttress roots, reaches a diameter of 7 ft (2 m). The branches have a typical horizontal arrangement. The entire bark is rough with spiny conical protuberances. The leaves usually fall at the beginning of the dry season, when the pinkish white flowers are produced. They have many stamens and are wind pollinated. The fruit is a capsule like that of the cocoa and contains many dark, round seeds surrounded by cottony, yellowish white hairs. These fibers, which occupy almost one fifth of the capsule, contain a lot of cellulose and hemicellulose and are smooth, waterproof, and highly elastic. They are ideal as insulating material and for filling cushions and life jackets. Over a year, a tree produces about 44 lb (20 kg) of these fibers. The main producers are Indonesia, Cambodia, Madagascar and Central and South America, with a total world production of about 30,000 t. In the international market, however, the name kapok is often used for fibers from other tree members of the Bombacaceae, mainly from southeast Asia.

[Photo: Xavier Ferrer & Adolf de Sostoa]

206 A pitiless predator of other birds, the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) is the most spectacular eagle in the Manu Biosphere Reserve.

[Photo: Xavier Ferrer & Adolf de Sostoa]

207 The immense diversity of insect species is one of the reasons for the Manu Biosphere Reserve's status as a major center of biodiversity. The photo shows one example, the defensive pose of a tetrigid groundhopper. [Photo: Andre Bartschi / WWF / Still Pictures]

208 Biosphere reserves have stimulated ecological research in their surroundings. These recent publications are a good example of topics about which there was formerly very little information.

[Photo: Jordi Vidal]

209 The oddest and shiest of all Madagascar's Prosimii is the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), found in the Mananara Nord Biosphere Reserve. This nocturnal animal has an unusual diet that it obtains by even more surprisingly unusual means. It eats various fruits and also eats wood-boring larvae that it locates by listening for the noises they make when they gnaw the wood. When the aye-aye detects a larva, it tears a hole in the wood with its powerful incisors, and it then introduces the middle finger of its hand. This middle finger has become modified into a sort of long articulated nail and serves to extract the larvae or to mush it up and smear it on the finger, which it then licks (see also figure 24).

[Photo: Michel Loup / Jacana]

210 The lemurids and indrids are large prosimians that contrast with the tiny size of some members of the cheirogaleids (see also figures 24, 83, and 277). The lemurids and indrids are represented in the Mananara Nord Biosphere Reserve by this female ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata, on the left) and this male Verreaux's sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi, on the right).

[Photo: Rod Williams / Bruce Coleman Limited and Nick Gardner / Planet Pictures]

211 A typical plant of wet, nutrient-poor spots, the carnivorous plant Nepenthes distillatoria is one of the most representative plants of the Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve. It is locally known as bandura.

[Photo: Xavier Ferrer & Adolf de Sostoa]

212 Outside the core area of Sinharaja, as is common of most biosphere reserves, traditional agricultural activities continue, including rice cultivation (upper photo). The local people also manufacture jaggery using the inflorescence of the kiyul palm (Caryota urens). Jaggery (lower photo) is a sugary substance that is the main resource of many small villages in the reserve.

[Photos: Lucas Abreu / Incafo and Christine & Myriam Masson]
COPYRIGHT 2000 COPYRIGHT 2009 Enciclopedia Catalana, SAU
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Encyclopedia of the Biosphere
Date:Feb 1, 2000
Previous Article:2 Life in monsoon forests.
Next Article:3 Humans in the monsoon forests.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |