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Flora (Natural Vegetation)

It is the scarp edge of the Western Ghats that faces the impact of southwest monsoon. It rains heavily since the moisture laden clouds strike against the ghats. The coastal Mangalore enjoys an average of 3,000 mm of rains annually. On approaching the ghat, the intensity of rains increases and the peaks enjoy the highest rainfall. About 7,000 mm of rainfall is recorded in Kudremukh, while Agumbe, because of peculiar alignment of mountain peaks, receives much higher rains, averaging 7,460 mm. annually. As monsoon approaches the ghats and advances towards east, there is a considerable decline in the amount of rainfall. It is obvious that Sakaleshpura which is located just 10 km from the peaks of Western Ghats receives an average of 2,210 mm of rains while Hassan about 32 km. east gets about 875 mm of rains. The change of climate of this part of Karnataka and its ecology has already been made known.

Tropical Evergreen Forest:

The valleys and the slopes of Western Ghats offer the best example of the evergreen vegetation. Such covers are referred to as the Coastal Tropical Forest. Since the area enjoys heavy rainfall there is characteristic climax vegetation due to canopy coverage. There is no dearth of trees growing to a height of 30 m with wide spread canopy at the top, where they have interwoven with the neighbouring vegetation. These canopy, in fact acts as a barrier to both the windblown during June to December and the drizzle. But during rest of the season, the canopy is exposed to the sunlight and filters only a small part of it for the vegetation at the ground level. The different levels achieved by the vegetation are the result of specific humidity and the availability of desired amount of sunlight. The first one being the level of the vegetation which is dependent on the ground. The second level is defined by the trees which are comparatively at higher level. The last level is the one achieved by the cloud scrapers. Each level of trees, thus have obliged the theory of evolution and carrying successfully the process of photosynthesis as part of their biological activity in such environment.

Humid Deciduous Forest in the Upper Reaches of Ghats

As one proceeds towards plain from Malnad area, the change in the vegetation with tall trees - the humid deciduous forests are encountered.There are plenty of plants including epiphytes and their protection is assured during rainy season, while, they are exposed to hot sun during summer seasons. They start flowering between April and May, soon after the rainfall. There will be plenty of activities at the ground level of vegetation due to pre monsoon showers. The aromatic medicinal plants which are hidden in the ground start surfacing with multiple colours and diverse patterns of flowers.
All along the edge of the Western Ghats, the bamboo bushes were once spread over a wide area. Especially, Bambusa arundinacea and Dendrocalamus strictus were aplenty in the forest. Every cluster of bamboo sends the shoots (the new bamboo culms) when once the rainy season commences and growth is very rapid. Bamboo starts flowering once in 40 to 60 years and flowers wither away in Toto.

South Tropical Montane Forest

The South Tropical Montane Forests are essentially made up of scrubby green plants and green patches of short breeds of plants. Characteristically the evergreen tropical forests undergo visible change according to the altitude. The green plains primarily have innumerable minor medicinal plants which quickly complete their life cycles. The medicinal herbs and climbers are burnt every summer, only to sprout during April and May when it rains. The blades of grass, perennial as they are, will even decorate the burnt out hills with attractive greenery.

Coastal Vegetation:It looks as though the vegetation in the coastal area evolved in a different environment than the one in the interior land. This could be classified under three groups: 1. Sand dune vegetation 2. Mangrove and 3. Sea algae or sea weeds. Of this, the sea algae is always found submerged in the water, while, the mangroves are partially submerged and their growth is influenced by the tides. The sand dune vegetation is generally found on the sand dune located in a fairly higher altitude so that they are not affected by high tides.

Sand Dune Vegetation: This type of vegetation is linear, narrow and crescent shaped occurring as isolated patches (mainly between the borders of low and high tide marks). Sand dune vegetation is characterized by bands or dunes of sand, sand with heap or of linear depression in undisturbed coastal part or continental shelf having no tides or littoral zones or areas where laterite is in contact with the sea. Sand dunes are formed when wind blows and picks up and transport sand particles from intermediate as well as narrow zones.

Mangrove: Mangrove includes plants, trees, creepers that grow all along the tidal zone of tropical coastal areas. Mangrove grows along the margins of estuaries or in shallow lagoons which are separated from the sea by low lying dunes. The coral reefs also encourage the growth of mangrove in water circumscribing the reef. The Mangrove wet lands are home for a variety of biota in the coastal part of tropical areas which have higher proportion of life supporting system. Sandy soil is the main source for the food chain. Mangroves adapt themselves to this environment by changing the morphological characters in accordance with the changing tides. Mangrove are able to exploit their habitat (inter tidal zone) by developing physiological adaptations to overcome the problem of anoxia, high salinity and frequent tidal inundation. Modification includes developing aerobic roots to thrive in the environment lacking oxygen, supporting roots and mother roots for firmly fixing to the bottom and for absorbing nutrients. Another important modification is the development of nodules, when still intact with the plants, which, on attaining a particular stage will detach themselves and fall on the grounds and start sprouting insitu. Mangroves have a major role in stabilizing the coast acting as walls and preventing the land from coastal erosion. The web formed by supporting roots, the branching roots and the mother roots not only strengthen the plant but help in preventing the loss of fine soil beneath, from being removed by water currents. Mangroves also help in connecting rich nutrient soil of the estuaries. More importantly, mangrove as a part of biosphere supports habitat of a variety of fishes which have commercial value. The roots, barks and other intricate space provided by the mangroves are the breeding places for many marine animals, which successfully exploit the available mud, waste material and the nutrients available. In mangrove eco system the plants that flourish are the main productive resources, of which only a small part is available for herbivorous animals. The rest becomes deciduous and get accumulated in the bottom. The accumulated biomass get decayed which becomes the main resource to the microorganisms. This in turn acts as a source of food for bivalve Mollusca, which either float in water or dwell in the bottom. The water dwelling creatures normally rush to the place where food and shelter is assured. Fishery and collection of prawn is an important activity wherever mangrove flourishes. These two are directly related to each other and hence shows the importance of mangroves from the point of fisheries. Since mangrove forests have higher productivity and the means of transportation is fairly easy, they happen to be ideal places for developing aquaculture.