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Meghalayan rainforests similar to equatorial rainforests

Date: 11 November 2019 Tags: Biodiversity

Issue

A new study discovers that the Meghalayan rainforest, the northernmost in the world, is similar in structure and diversity to the other rainforests found near the Equator.

 

Background

The northeastern State of Meghalaya known for its wettest districts and living root bridges is also home to a lowland tropical rainforest north of the Tropic of Cancer.

 

Details

  • Tropical rainforests are the terrestrial areas on the earth teemed with enormous diversity of trees and other life-forms which make the largest sink of carbon.

  • Although these forests cover just about 6% of the Earth's land surface, about four-fifth of world's documented species can be found in tropical rainforests.

  • Characteristically, tropical rainforests occur in “hot and wet” habitats where all months receive precipitation and there is no dry season.

  • Rainforests usually occur near the Equator and about five degrees North and South latitudes from the Equator are considered the real home of the lowland tropical rainforest.

  • The extreme spread of tropical rainforests in northern limits in the world has been found in northeastern region of India where high rainfall-receiving habitats with hot and humid climate, especially in Meghalaya and Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh are now known to boast species-rich rainforests.

  • The research team found that the climatic conditions in the region , high rainfall and humidity, and perfect annual mean temperature  were conducive for the survival of the rainforests.

  • Over 180 different taxa were identified of the total, and it was noted that tropical Asian species made up 95% of the abundance.

  • Although these rainforests had fewer species and individuals of liana or woody climbing plants, the levels of beta diversity were high.

  • Also compared to Equatorial rainforests, they had a higher proportion of rare species and good representation of the members of families of Fagaceae and Theaceae in the Meghalayan rainforests.

  • The researchers found that the Meghalayan rainforest trees showed short stature, while the trees in the Equatorial region are known to grow from 45 to 60 m in height. This indicated that in order to survive at such latitudes, trees have undergone some modifications.

  • The region had a high density of 467 trees per hectare. Though this is lower compared with equatorial rainforests, it fell in the intermediate category for rainforests around the Tropic of Cancer.

  • Also, the richness of species per hectare was the highest among all lowland rainforests near the Tropic of Cancer.

  • Studies revealed that the rainforests have remained free from grazing, fire and commercial logging because strong anecdotal religious beliefs and taboos continue to remain popular among the tribes, which have helped in their preservation.