Conservation of the Myristica Swamps – the highly threatened and unique ecosystem in the Western Ghats, India

Bhausaheb Tambat

Myristica swamps are one of the unique ecosystems in the Western Ghats—a global mega diversity hot spot in India. Located in low-lying, poorly drained depressions, these swamps form an extensive network along the watercourses through the primeval forests of the Western Ghats. However, due to human interventions, the swamps today are highly threatened and are highly fragmented. These swamps are the only sites of occurrence of certain members of the ancient family Myristicaceae such as Myristica fatua var magnifica and Gymnacranthera canarica, and have many distinct endemic taxa, which remain poorly studied. Recent studies have shown that many of the species endemic to swamps have incredibly small population sizes and have poor regeneration. Consequently a number of the species could be highly threatened, and in few cases might also be on the verge of extinction. It is feared that unless immediate measures are taken to restore populations, many of the species may be faced with extinction. This proposal attempts to map the network of swamps in the Western Ghats and assess the relative threats to the swamps. By taking an inventory of the demographic profiles of species in the swamps, the project will identify and develop a priority list of species that merit conservation attention and propose plans for restoration and conservation of the swamps and their species.